Detectives from Operation Castle, our dedicated burglary team, are welcoming the sentencing of a Lancashire man as part of the biggest investigation the team has overseen into a regional Organised Crime Group (OCG) responsible for a total of 162 burglary, theft and attempted burglary offences

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38-year-old Kashif Rafiq (also known as Anjum Nawaz) of Oozehead Lane, Blackburn, Lancashire was sentenced to eight years, nine months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles.

Rafiq was sentenced today, Monday 4 October, taking the total sentences for the operation to 32 years in prison.

He was assessed as the head of the OCG, responsible for coordinating their activities in sourcing and stealing multiple vehicles across Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire.

The investigation was launched in January 2020 after an increase in residential burglaries across Merseyside, Lancashire and Cheshire, in which high performance vehicles with an estimated value of £2.6 million were stolen, and often recovered in the Blackburn area of Lancashire.

The theft offences investigated were keyless entries, in which wireless key signals were cloned, enabling the offenders to open the vehicle on the driveway, start the engine and drive the vehicle away. This means the criminal is able to avoid having to break into homes to steal key fobs.

Assisted by Cheshire and Lancashire Constabularies, Merseyside Police co-ordinated the investigation and the following sentences have been handed out.

The following people were sentenced earlier this year as part of the operation:

20-year-old Lewis Tankard of Seel Road, Huyton was sentenced to five years and seven months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles
19-year-old Neil O’Brien of Prestwood Crescent, Knotty Ash was sentenced to six years in prison for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles
29-year-old Noah Hassan of no fixed abode was sentenced to four years and nine months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles
29-year-old Stephen Hooten of Craigburn Road, Tuebrook was sentenced to five years and two months for conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles
36-year-old Sireen Rafiq (also known as Shamilia Tabassum) of Seacole Close, Blackburn, Lancashire was sentenced to 21 months for transferring criminal property
Additionally, 50-year-old Paula Heathers of The Green, Stoneycroft was sentenced to 14 months suspended for two years and 115 hours of unpaid work for possessing criminal property. Heathers and the six others all pleaded guilty.
20-year-old Susan Russell of Corner Brook, Stockbridge Village, was sentenced to 12 months suspended for two years, 60 hours unpaid work and a curfew, following a trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

Two more people will be sentenced later this year.

Speaking after the sentencing of Rafiq, Detective Sergeant Darren Hankin of Operation Castle said: “It is very pleasing to see another man jailed today as part of this complex and successful operation. Rafiq led the OCG’s operations, something the courts have reflected in the severity of his sentence today.

“His OCG were sophisticated, prolific and causing misery wherever they went. A conspiracy was evidenced in which they organised their burglary of vehicles and their onward distribution via a network of associates.

“Operation Castle is a dedicated team of detectives and we’ve seen more than 500 years in prison handed out to suspects since we launched in 2018, a number which rises each week. Every sentence handed down makes the communities of Merseyside and beyond safer from the harm, distress and inconvenience that burglary brings.

“We understand the massive impact that burglary has on victims. It can be a really personal and invasive crime and victims can struggle to come to terms with offenders having entered their homes and stolen personal items, which don’t always have huge monetary value, but on a personal level can be irreplaceable.

“Key to these successes can often be information from those communities targeted, so I would continue to ask people to report anything suspicious, and come forward with any information you may have seen or heard.

“Many other burglaries are still preventable as offenders are often opportunistic. Lock your front and back door even when you are in, set your burglar alarm when you go out or go to bed and consider getting CCTV or doorbell technology, both of which can be valuable both as a deterrent measure but also when investigating incidents.”

Further information on crime prevention can be found or on our local Twitter and Facebook pages. You can follow the hashtags #OpCastle #BeatTheBurglar to see updates.