Keyless car theft gang jailed after targeting Heathrow Airport car park

A gang that stole almost £3 million worth of high-end vehicles has been jailed after targeting Heathrow Airport car park.

Some 72 cars, including Range Rovers, BMWs and Mercedes, were stolen across London and the South East over a 10-month period between December 2019 and October 2020.

The gang targeted cars with keyless technology on residential streets, driveways and dealership forecourts, using a device to programme a new digital key in just seconds which allowed them to gain entry and drive off.

James Howsen
James Howsen was the ringleader of the gang (Metropolitan Police/PA)

An investigation, launched after a number of thefts from a car park at Heathrow Airport, found the group were behind more than £2.8 million worth of stolen vehicles.

One car was located on a shipping container bound for Ghana, while others were re-plated and used to commit separate crimes or dismantled for parts in “chop shops”.

Four men were jailed for more than 20 years at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday after admitting their roles, the Metropolitan Police said.

Ringleader James Howsen, 32, from Brentwood, Essex, was jailed for six years and eight months and banned from driving for six years and four months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal, dangerous driving, burglary, and aggravated vehicle taking.

Dwaine Dixon
Dwaine Dixon was jailed for more than five years (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Dwaine Dixon, 29, from Woodford Green, Essex, was jailed for five years and 11 months for conspiracy to steal, and burglary.

Jack MacLeod, 29, of no fixed abode, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and disqualified from driving for two years and eight months for conspiracy to steal, burglary, two counts of dangerous driving, ABH, and aggravated vehicle taking.

Brodi Higgins, 24, of no fixed address, was sentenced to four years and one month imprisonment and disqualified from driving for two years and ten months for conspiracy to steal, burglary, theft of a vehicle, and dangerous driving.

Pc Barry Munnelly, of the Met’s Aviation Policing Command, who led the investigation, said: “This gang travelled around London and the South East to commit these brazen thefts – at all times of the day from residential streets, private driveways and car dealership forecourts.

“On a number of occasions they drove recklessly, showing no regard for the safety of the public or police officers.”

Jack MacLeod
Jack MacLeod (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Four other members of the gang were jailed earlier this year.

Jordan Murray, 25, from Romford, east London, was jailed for three years and eight months, and disqualified from driving for three years after pleading guilty to conspiracy to steal and two counts of aggravated vehicle taking.

Zakaria Ahmed, 28, of Woodford Green, was jailed for four years and three months, and disqualified from driving for seven years and seven months after admitting to conspiracy to steal and two counts of aggravated vehicle taking.

Arif Ahmed, 28, of Woodford Green, was jailed for three years and three months, and disqualified from driving for three years after admitting to conspiracy to steal, aggravated vehicle taking and dangerous driving.

Brodi Higgins
Brodi Higgins (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Abbas Moobe, 25, of Woodford Green, was jailed for three years and three months, and disqualified from driving for two years and nine months after admitting to conspiracy to steal, and aggravated vehicle taking.

On October 23, 2020, Arif Ahmed, driving a stolen vehicle with Dixon and Moobe, out of a car park at Heathrow Terminal 5, deliberately collided with police cars and rammed an exit barrier to make an escape.

Chief Superintendent Ian Howells, operation command unit commander for aviation policing, said: “This is an excellent example of an extremely thorough and diligent investigation which has resulted in a dangerous criminal network being closed down.

“As well as the widespread theft of vehicles and the distress caused to victims, the manner in which they carried out their offending presented a real danger to the public and I am pleased that they have now been brought to justice.

“The Met are committed to getting justice for victims, safeguarding the public and tackling organised criminal gangs.”