Detectives who brought a burglary gang to justice after high-value raids across Sunderland and South Tyneside are now trying to return precious stolen items to their rightful owners.
Steven Crombie was sentenced to more than seven years behind bars after admitting to carrying out a string of offences having been linked to eight separate burglaries.
An estimated £170,000 worth of items were stolen in properties across the region including a OBE certificate - which has now been recovered and returned - war documents and irreplaceable jewellery belonging to victims’ late relatives.
Now the police officers who dedicated more than a year to bring the culprits to justice are desperate to return stolen items to their rightful owners.
They are also reissuing an appeal to find an urn belonging to one of the victims, who lives in Houghton, which holds the ashes of her late father.
PC Graeme Rockett, who was the lead officer on the investigation, said: “Her mother has just recently passed and what the victim is still hoping to do is reunite her mam and dad with the ashes.
“That’s why we’d still like to make a further appeal for anybody who may be thinking I was given this to keep and didn’t know it was stolen to bring it in. Even if someone can drop it off anonymously, I just want to reunite her with her dad’s ashes again.”
From sentimental jewellery , to a bike and a pair of signed boxing gloves, Northumbria Police has issued pictures of the items officers are desperate to return to their owners.
Officers are also appealing for anyone who thinks they may be in possession of stolen goods given to them by Crombie or one of his associates to come forward.
“Burglary for me, and the police force, it’s up there with the top end of your crimes where victims will be changed,” added PC Rockett.
“It will have a massive impact on you. Some of the victims have spent thousands of pounds since the burglaries on putting additional security or cameras up and they still don’t feel that safe.
“Because it’s happened to them in the back of their minds they’re going to think - is it going to happen to us again?”
Crombie, 41, of Hampstead Road, Sunderland, admitted conspiracy to burgle, burglary, (in relation to five house raids) and theft and was jailed for seven years and two months at Newcastle Crown Court.
The court heard Crombie left a cigarette end at the scene of a theft from a car, was caught on CCTV with a visible tattoo during one break in, left his blood at another and even used his own phone and name to call a taxi to get away from one crime scene.
“We’ve not been able to return as much as we would like and that is our main aim in releasing the pictures of the stolen property because we want it to return as much as we can,” said PC Rockett.
“Something that I’ve got at the station might not be a valuable item to me but it might hold so much sentimental value to someone else.
“It’s not ours, it belongs to them and we want to see it returned. It should never have been taken in the first place.
“Burglary is such an emotive and horrible crime to be a victim of because of how it will leave you feeling.
“The amount of property that I’ve still got in my possession at the police station.
“The fact that I haven’t been able to identify at all with victims means to me potentially that there are also burglaries out there that they’ve done that we haven’t been able to link to an individual address.”
All of the items recovered from Crombie’s home, a storage unit in Colima Ave and a garage in Witherwack and are now being held at Southwick Police Station.