"HEARTLESS thieves" who plundered homes on winter trips to the West Midlands have been locked up after police ended their seasonal burglary spree.

Romanian thieves Ninel Spiru, Avram Spiru and Nicolae-Bogdan Baiceanu smashed their way into more than 30 homes in just a few weeks either side of Christmas.

They ransacked rooms - stealing valuables including sentimental jewellery from widowers and children’s christening bracelets.

The Spirus − who are understood to be related − and Baiceanu struck at various times of day and brazenly forced open or smashed windows in broad daylight while homes were occupied.

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During one raid on January 21 in Ridgacre Lane, Quinton, they rummaged through a house while the occupier was taking a shower.

The gang used 26-year-old Ninel Spiru’s black Ford Focus to commit the offences and on February 4 police officers stopped it in Smethwick High Street where all three were arrested.

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A search of a nearby flat revealed a hoard of jewellery stuffed into bags. The total value of their ill-gotten gains is unclear but it is estimated to be around £200,000.

Police detectives recovered crucial evidence against the trio.

Forensics experts found a droplet of blood near a broken window pane following a burglary in Great Barr on December 4 last year that returned a DNA hit to Avram Spiru.

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The 38-year-old’s DNA was also recovered from a house in Wednesfield that the group targeted on January 26.

The following day the gang attacked a home in Sutton Coldfield. Detectives seized CCTV showing Baiceanu opening a side gate to the property before he had time to pull a snood up over his face.

They initially denied conspiracy to commit burglary − a charge that also encompassed two Stafford break-ins − but later admitted their roles.

At Birmingham Crown Court yesterday (Thursday June 18) Avram Spiru was sentenced to seven years and six months, Baiceanu was sentenced to seven years and two months and Ninel Spiru was given four years.

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Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Nigel Box from Force CID, said: “We are looking at three truly heartless thieves…they had total disregard for the distress and upset they were causing victims.

“They smashed their way into homes, trashed children’s bedrooms, and swiped sentimental items, including World War I medals, from pensioners living alone. People had put their lives on the line for those medals, they are treasured possessions, yet these three were happy to steal them to make a few pounds.

“Some victims lost jewellery and electricals valued at many thousands of pounds but they also left some, including children, psychologically scarred, from the trauma of suffering a break-in.

“Their flight history suggests they are seasonal thieves, flying into the UK for the winter and returning to Romania to enjoy the summer with their ill-gotten gains. They were essentially crime tourists.

“My team worked really hard to gather evidence against the three and I’m pleased they’ve all been handed jail sentences."

The Spirus − both of no fixed address − and Baiceanu who was living in Windmill Lane, Smethwick, committed the offences between November 15 last year and February 3.

Det Sgt Box said some victims had been reunited with their possessions "but lots more remains unclaimed".