A thief who helped steal nearly a dozen luxury cars during a raid on a high street garage has been jailed for 12 years. 

Billy Francis admitted to burgling Crossways Garage, in Halstead High Street, when appearing at Basildon Crown Court yesterday. 

As many as 11 second-hand cars were snatched by a gang of thieves from the garage overnight on February 10 last year.

Police were called to the scene and chased some of the crooks driving the stolen vehicles through parts of north Essex.

Six of the stolen vehicles, a Maserati Gran Turismo, Seat Leon, Volkswagen Passat, Audi TT, BMW 318 and a BMW xDrive, were later found in Braintree and London.

DNA belonging to Francis was found on the steering wheel of one of the remaining cars left in the garage, which had been moved to allow the thieves to steal other vehicles.

Officers arrested Francis and charged him in July last year with burglaries in Halstead, Buckhurst Hill, Brentwood, Loughton and Gravesend, and an aggravated burglary in East Church, Kent.

He was also charged with dangerous driving, taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, driving other than in accordance with a licence, driving without insurance, failing to provide a specimen for analysis and criminal damage, all in Weymouth on 26 July.

Francis admitted to the offences at Basildon Crown Court on Thursday February 14 and was jailed for a total of 12 years.

He was also banned from driving for eight years and must take an extended test.

Detective Sergeant David Wilkinson, of Brentwood CID, said: “Francis is a brazen and prolific burglar, but forensic tests and CCTV played a key part in helping us identify and catch him.

“The long prison sentence he has been given reflects the seriousness of his crimes, particularly threatening a mother and two young children, which must have been terrifying for them.”