Burglar trio who targeted homes of rich and famous had penchant for handbags

Designer handbags were a favourite target for a team of burglars who stole more than £500,000 worth of luxury goods from homes of the rich and famous.

Thomas Mee, 42, Vincent Ball, 52, and John Barlow, 58, all from Liverpool, were jailed on Monday for a conspiracy to burgle homes including those of Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling and Jamiroquai singer Jay Kay.

Jewellery and watches were taken in the raids, often along with the householders’ handbag collections.

From left, Vincent Ball, Thomas Mee and John Barlow
From left, Vincent Ball, Thomas Mee and John Barlow (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

When the three were caught police found pictures of bags from designers including Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Yves Saint Laurent on the phone of Mee, who also admitted handling stolen goods at Chester Crown Court.

Photos of handbags belonging to Victoria Higgins were sent by Mee, who offered them for sale to contacts, the day after her home in Lapworth, West Midlands, was burgled in December 2018, the court heard.

Simon Parry, prosecuting, said: “The handbags aren’t standards handbags by any means. They are all designer handbags, always designer handbags that are stolen and high value jewellery.”

In a statement, Mrs Higgins, who had £54,000 worth of bags and jewellery taken, said: “Many items stolen were of great sentimental value, irreplaceable and collected over many years.”

Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling
Manchester City footballer Raheem Sterling (Paul Childs/PA)

The court heard during a burglary from a home in Willaston, Cheshire, more than £146,000 worth of goods including handbags and jewellery were stolen.

Following the burglary, Mee sent a picture of a Louis Vuitton scarf, taken from the home, to a contact and asked if it was the scarf they had been looking for.

Mr Parry said: “The following morning Mee’s telephone photographed a number of luxury handbags and other items.

“He sent them to two females. One of those replied by message asking Mr Mee what the prices were for the stolen items he was selling.”

Pictures of the handbags were found on Thomas Mee's phone
Pictures of the handbags were found on Thomas Mee’s phone (Cheshire Constabulary/PA)

When the home of Mansfield Town owners John and Carolyn Radford in Barnby Moor, Nottinghamshire, was targeted almost £114,000 of goods were taken.

However, in some burglaries the team came away with less.

At the home of England player Sterling in Goostrey, Cheshire, they left empty-handed after the alarm was activated, while they took just a camera from popstar Kay’s Buckinghamshire mansion.

On the final raid before their arrest, the burglars were disturbed by the son of Bury FC owner Steve Dale as they ransacked his bedroom.

As they ran off the property, chased by Mr Dale’s son, the criminals dropped watches worth between £300,000 and £500,000 and escaped with only a £10 note.