'Extremely violent' burglary gang who posed as police to snatch puppy and children's Christmas gifts jailed

A trio who posed as police officers, punched a mother to the floor and tied her up during an "extremely violent" house burglary have been jailed for 35 years.

Michael Cloherty, 58, Simon Ludlow, 50, and Michael Cook, 54, were wearing caps with the word "police" on the front and carrying friction-lock batons when they arrived at the home in Putney, southwest London, claiming they needed to conduct a drug search.

One of the men also produced a fake ID badge.

When the homeowner, in her 30s, challenged them, she was grabbed by the throat and forced back into her home.

She was punched and stamped on before her hands were tied together during the ordeal. Her children were in the house.

The men fled with cash, Christmas presents and a two-month-old puppy after ransacking the property on 21 November last year.

The puppy, a blue merle American extra-large bulldog, has yet to be traced.

The police discovered that the gang had travelled to Putney a few days earlier for an apparent reconnaissance trip to identify points of entry and cameras at the address, or an aborted burglary attempt.

Officers unearthed "critical evidence" after raiding the gang's home addresses, which led to their arrests.

They were all convicted of aggravated burglary after a trial at Kingston Crown Court last week.

Cloherty, of Orpington, southeast London, was jailed for 13 years.

Ludlow, of Mitcham, southeast London, was sentenced to 12 years and Cook, of Norbury, southwest London, must serve 10 years.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Andy Durham, from the specialist crime south unit of the Metropolitan Police, said the men used "extreme violence to rob a mother in her family home. They have caused her injuries before stealing her children's presents and their very young beloved puppy."

His colleague Detective Inspector Dan Whitten, from the south west command unit, said: "This offence involved extensive planning, violence and a disregard for the impact on the vulnerable children present. The offenders clearly posed a wider risk to the public.

"I am pleased they are no longer in a position to cause such considerable harm and hope their convictions serve to reassure the local community."

DI Whiten also praised the victim for her "fortitude" and the officers who brought the men to justice.

Anyone who recognises the dog pictured above has information about its whereabouts or has been offered an American bulldog puppy for sale is asked to call police on 101 quoting 1837/29NOV21.

If you are unsure whether you are dealing with a genuine police officer call 101 to check their identity.

Click here for more guidance on how to verify an officer's identity.