A gang of professional burglars who stole over £660,000 worth of cars from the driveways of 32 homes in Herts, Beds and Bucks were jailed for a total of 23 years and 3 months today.

Dean Sarney, 36, and John Sebborn, 35, were each sentenced to nine years and nine months while the getaway driver and lookout man Craig Raeside, 43, received three years and nine months.

They were told by a judge at St Albans crown court that some of the victims had turned their homes into "fortresses" so they could feel safe again.

The owners of mid and high value cars were asleep when their homes were raided by the gang, who took car keys, along with other easily available goods such as wallets, handbags and cash. They drove off in the cars.

Prosecutor Neil King said the total conspiracy amounted to £661,383.85 from 32 burglaries. Of that, £287,000 worth of vehicles remain unrecovered.

Sarney, who had twice been on a programme that aims to stop prolific offenders committing more crimes by getting them off drugs, was involved in seven of the burglaries.

When he was arrested in Luton in October last year, Sarney was in possession of three wraps of heroin. The police then discovered he had a quarter of a kilo of cocaine at his address, which he said he was "looking after." It had a street value of between £18,000 and £25,000.

Sebborn admitted 13 burglaries and Raeside seven burglaries.

Sarney, of Derwent Road, Luton, Sebborn, of Three Star Park, Lower Stondon, Beds and Raeside, of Ridgeway Road, Luton, appeared for sentence having admitted conspiracy to burgle.

Sarney was also sentenced for conspiring to supply Class A drugs and possessing Class A drugs. Sebborn was in breach of a community order which had been imposed at Luton Crown Court in an attempt to stop him offending.

Sebborn's partner, Hayley Stansfield, 29, of Gillian Court, Hitchin Road, Luton, was sentenced to 14 months in jail suspended for two years for assisting an offender. She must carry out 240 hours' unpaid work and complete 10 days of a rehabilitation activity requirement.

Stansfield had arranged for a taxi to "spirit away" Sebborn when the police were after him following a burglary in Ware last August. When he was arrested in October, she hid £1,000 and two mobile phones in her bra.

Sentencing them, Judge Philip Grey said: "Burglary is a mean offence. It has a devastating effect on its victims.

"This was a professional campaign of burglary. Addresses had to be scouted out and a market found. This was organised professional crime.

"What you did has required many of the victims to turn their houses into fortresses to feel safe again."

The judge said one victim described the night time burglary on her home as having "completely ruined" her sense of safety. She and her husband have set up cameras, no longer park on the driveway and have installed alarms and CCTV.

Another victim, who found a meat cleaver at the bottom of his stairs after the break-in, said: "This offence emotionally affected everyone in house."