TWO men were sentenced to five years in prison for an organised plot to steal from lorries parked up around the M25.

Tommy Clampin and Dave Steingold were the main players in a series of raids on lorries parked in service areas, around the motorway.

They specialised in cutting open plastic and vinyl side sheeting with craft knives to see what the cargo was inside.

If it could be easily sold, loads or part loads, were stolen, Chelmsford Crown Court heard.

Around 50 lorries were targeted in the operation, run from a site at Bretts Farm, Grays.

Cargo including, beer, whisky, perfume, cigarette papers and trainers were stolen.

Police uncovered the scheme and began Operation Bohemien, using surveillence, night vision cameras and tailing an Iveco lorry that used the Grays base.

Automatic number plate recognition was also used by officers, and the lorry was followed to various lorry parks around the M25.

Night vision cameras were used during the operation and the court was shown footage of men checking parked up lorries.

Many of them were found to have their plastic side sheeting cut when they were examined later.

The eight-week trial heard how lorries in lorry parks around the M25 with vinyl side curtains were selected and knives would be used to cut the panels to see what the loads were inside.

If theywere profitable, another lorry would come alongside and part of the load would be transferred.

The lorry, used by the men, was followed on various nights to lorry parks at Toddington services, Clackett Lane, South Mimms, Dartford, and other sites within reach of the M25.

Clampin, 38, of Dock Road, Grays, and Steingold, 39, of East Street, South Stifford, were convicted on a conspiracy to steal charge last week.

Judge David Turner QC jailed them for five years each.

The judge told the pair: “This was a wellorganised, well-planned operation.”

Another man, Richard Chapman, 37, of Copper Beech Road, South Ockendon, failed to appear in court for sentence, and the judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest.

He had admitted a theft charge involving trainers at an earlier hearing.

Three other men, Steven Cochrane, 40, Carlisle Way, Pitsea, Grant Leeks, 40, of Sudbury Road, Downham, Billericay, and Dean Leeks, 36, of Cavedish Gardens, Aveley, South Ockendon, were cleared by the jury.

All three were formally discharged by the court, after the unanimous verdicts.