A GANG of burglars who snatched a victim’s only inheritance from her late mother were rumbled when a suspicious onlooker took a photo of their getaway car.

A group of five Romanian men, unemployed and “desperate” for money, ransacked a house in Halstead Road, Colchester.

But their clean getaway was shortlived when the victim’s daughter realised she had vital evidence on her phone.

She had arrived at her mother’s home on the day of the burglary and spotted the five suspects sitting in a car near to the house.

Suspicious of their behaviour, she took a picture of the car and its registration number.

This information would later prove vital to catching the culprits.

Michael Crimp, prosecuting at Ipswich Crown Court, said: “When the victim returned home about half an hour later the car had gone but she noticed two shadows move past the door.

“She went inside and discovered the patio door had been forced open and the home had been burgled.

“They had been through the whole house, pulling out drawers and opening cupboards.

“Property to the value of £2,500 was stolen including watches, clothing and jewellery.

“The value of property stolen goes beyond that.

“Some jewellery had been inherited by the victim from her mother - she describes it as the only inheritance from her mother.”

The pictures were circulated and soon afterwards the vehicle was stopped by police in the Avenue of Remembrance, Colchester.

Inside were Fabian George, 31, Bogdan Craciun, 23, Ghenadie Potlog, 24, Petru Gogu, 21, and Sorin Ene, 24, who all later admitted one count of burglary.

“In addition crowbars, screwdrivers and gloves were found,” added Mr Crimp.

“Officers went to the address of the registered keeper of the car and recovered some, but not all, of the items that had been stolen from the victim’s house.”

Potlog was charged with a second count of burglary after officers identified him in CCTV footage of an earlier raid in Chappell Road, Tiptree.

The court heard the victim of this theft, carried out in November last year, was left so shaken he is currently looking to move.

Potlog, who admitted the charge, and two other unidentified crooks made off with £13,000 worth of property, including musical instruments gathered as part of a collection spanning 20 years.

Mr Crimp said: “The victim describes his main leisure activity as music and the theft of these instruments has effected him in that he is unable to fully pursue his interest.”

Lucy Ginsberg, mitigating, for George and Ene, said George has an outstanding sentence for theft in his home country of Romania.

“He thought coming over here would give him a better chance at making a better life for himself,” she said.

“He and his partner in Romania have been together for eight years, they have a child together who is seven and his partner is pregnant.

“He understands he made a stupid decision - he is the author of his own misfortune.

”He came here to work and got caught up in this.”

She added: “Mr Ene is in a similar situation.

“His involvement is, he says, due to desperation - he is an only child and his mother, who is back at home, has cancer.

“He was under a great deal of pressure to pay for the treatment his mother needed.”

Dhaneshwar Sharma, mitigating for Craciun, Potlog and Gogu, said the three men had all moved from Romania to the UK seeking work but had struggled financially.

Recorder Clive Jones sentenced the gang to a total of 12 years in prison.

“Domestic burglary is an extremely serious offence,” he said. “

It affects ordinary people whose house and home should be safe.

“It is an unlawful invasion of the lives of innocent people who have worked hard to obtain their home, that safety and the possessions within them.”

Ene and George each received two year jail terms, while Craciun received a term of two years and one month.

Gogu was jailed for two years and five months and Potlog received a term of three years and six months for his role in the two burglaries.