Doncaster burglars jailed for over 60 years thanks to one year of Operation Castle

A city-wide campaign of action tackling burglaries in Doncaster is celebrating a year in operation with over 60 years' worth of convictions and dozens of criminals behind bars.
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Just over 12 months ago, Operation Castle was launched in Doncaster to provide a dedicated and detective-led response to incidents of burglary in people's homes in the city.

Police know first-hand the devastating impact burglaries have on their victims and realised that a new coordinated and committed approach was needed to identify links and bring more burglars to justice.

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Detective Sergeant James Wiggins, who has led the operation, said: "Rather than looking at burglary cases as isolated incidents, we knew that if we looked at a series of events we could make that connection and link it to one serial offender.

Jailed: Jesse Sadd, Lee Barnes and Mario Cicak.Jailed: Jesse Sadd, Lee Barnes and Mario Cicak.
Jailed: Jesse Sadd, Lee Barnes and Mario Cicak.

"We've been able to recognise patterns of offending and gather vital intelligence on burglars' movements and behaviours which has already yielded some significant results and seen some prolific offenders given lengthy custodial sentences."

Doncaster as a district had one of the highest burglary rates in the country, but the new approach through Operation Castle has seen it record its lowest number of burglaries in the past five years, with a 21 per cent reduction in reports compared to the same period in 2022.

It means the district is now dealing with around 100 less burglaries a month and the operation has resulted in a number of notorious burglars being put behind bars.

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Lee Barnes was given an eight-year prison sentence after raiding a person's home and threatening her with a knife as he admitted multiple burglaries and attempted burglaries as well as fraud, assault and robbery.

Jesse Sadd's one-man crime wave came to an end thanks to diligent evidence gathering by Operation Castle and Doncaster response officers, with the 32-year-old, jailed for five years earlier this year after admitting multiple burglaries and theft related offences.

In another notable case, Op Castle detectives were able to solve a number of burglaries before they had even been reported by tracking down teenager Mario Cicak.

After stealing a victim's bank cards among other property, Cicak was traced by the victim to a nearby shop. She notified officers who tracked him to his home address and despite his best efforts to escape, he was detained at the scene by uniform officers.

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As they began searching his house, officers began recovering more items linked to other burglaries that had not yet been reported and in August 2023, Cicak, 19, of Hexthorpe Road, was jailed for three years for four counts of fraud and three counts of burglary.

DS Wiggins said: "Cicak had no previous convictions but was prolific in his offending. This was one of many cases where we looked at a series of burglaries and linked intelligence before working with Uniform response teams to arrest him and bring him into custody.

"Even thought it was his first conviction, he got a hefty three-year sentence which shows just how seriously courts and judges are taking crimes of this nature."

The Op Castle momentum is set to continue with even more convicted Doncaster burglars due to appear in court for sentencing over the coming weeks and months.

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Securing the level of evidence needed to secure charges does sometime present challenges but thanks to having a dedicated team who solely working on burglary investigations, they have been able to apply specialist knowledge and they know what they need to do for the CPS to approve criminal charges.

DS Wiggins, who supervises a team and two burglary scene attenders, said: "We've been presented with some challenging situations and sometimes we do have to ask the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) for extensions to see cases over the lines.

"Sometimes it might prove simpler to secure evidence against one charge rather than multiple counts but our team know to never go down the easy route and always strive to secure charges on more than one count if the connections are there.

"They work against the clock, but the team will do everything in their power to get those charges authorised as they are desperate to secure justice for victims."

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Since February last year, the Op Castle team have secured over 100 charges and it's all thanks to a dedicated approach of a small team working tirelessly to apprehend burglars in the city.

As well as responding to reports of burglaries and working hard to detect and arrest offenders, the team work proactively by using local intelligence around patterns of offenders to inform patrol plans and stop burglaries from occurring in the first place.

They also work closely with the force's offender management team so they know when burglars who are newly released from prison are back in our communities.

The local knowledge provided by members of the public is crucial in helping to pinpoint and track down offenders and DS Wiggins is keen to ensure the public continue passing on information so the Op Castle team can build on the momentum of the past 12 months.

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DS Wiggins said: "We use both plain clothed and high visibility patrols in key hotspot areas where burglaries are more prevalent in order to maximise their impact.

"We direct our resources to tackle burglaries based on demand and intelligence from the public and we really value any information they have around offenders.

"We utilise systems so we can identify areas across the force which are experiencing higher burglary offences.

"This will then allow us to create problem-oriented policing plans to work in conjunction with local neighbourhood policing teams and reduce burglary rates in particular areas."

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Anyone who is concerned about burglaries or attempted burglaries in their area should contact police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.

You can also pass information to us via the our online live chat or online portal here: