A CAR dealer from Basildon who stole 13 classic Minis has been jailed for three years.

Sam Metten, 28, of Polsteads, was found guilty of conspiracy to steal motor vehicles after a week-long trial.

An investigation into the theft of classic Minis from across the south-east led officers from the Metropolitan Police's organised vehicle crime unit to investigate the activities of Metten and another man, Stephen Fiddimore.

The duo ran an eBay business from a lock-up garage in Kent, dealing exclusively in classic Mini cars and vehicle parts.

On Tuesday, April 28, 2015, officers carried out search warrants at Metten's home in Polsteads, as well as five addresses in Kent.

Property seized at each of these premises linked the defendants to the criminal enterprise.

In addition, two vehicles seized from the defendants' home addresses were found to be stolen and cloned.

Metten and Fiddimore were able to use their specialist knowledge to gain entry to the vehicles and ‘hotwire’ the immobilisers in order to drive them away.

Detectives believe they may have been responsible for more than 40 vehicle thefts in Essex, Kent and London between August 2014 and May 2015.

Fiddimore, 36, of Shearwater, Longfield, Kent, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal motor vehicles and was jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Detective Inspector Caroline Clooney said: "These men systematically targeted the owners of classic Minis across the south east.

"Many of the vehicles had been lovingly restored and were the owners’ pride and joy. Discovering that their cars had been stolen obviously caused them much distress and inconvenience."