A 'RUTHLESS' gang of men have been sentenced for more than eight years in prison after stealing BMW cars.

Kasim Ali Ahmed, 29, Haroon Qamar, 27, Mohammed Irfan Mazhar, 24, of Blackburn and Michael Dicks, 24, of Swinton, were sentenced in Preston Crown Court following two hearings.

The thieves were arrested in March 2016 after the police were called to Metcalf Close in Blackburn following sightings of men acting suspiciously.

Officers attended and found damage to the window and inside of a BMW car, Ahmed, Qamar and Dicks left the scene in a Seat Leon which was stopped by the police near the M61.

Electronic devices used to steal BMW's were found in the car and the trio were arrested.

Following a major investigation into the group's mobile phone use and with the help of CCTV, 12 BMW cars were identified the group had stolen or attempted to steal in Blackburn.

Other vehicles had been identified in Preston and the Ribble Valley.

During the investigation officers established Mazhar was working with the gang and he was later arrested.

Ahmed. of Haslingden Road, Blackburn was jailed for four years and two months, Qamar of The Pastures in Blackburn, was sentenced to two years and four months, and Mazhar, of Colenso Road, Blackburn, was handed a 20 months sentence suspended for two years and Dicks, of Brattice Drive, Swinton, was jailed for one year and five months.

A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing will now take place against the men.

PC Rick Hek, said: "This gang was particularly ruthless in its activities, targeting BMW cars across the Lancashire area.

"Ahmed, Qamar, Mazhar and Dicks showed a blatant disregard for their victims, carrying out a number of vehicle thefts before a tip-off to police from a member of the public led to their arrests.

"We welcome the sentences handed down from court and hope it deters others who attempt to carry out such criminal activities."

Ahmed, Qamar and Mazhar pleaded not guilty to the offence and the case went to trial in December.

After three days of hearings Ahmed and Qamar changed their pleas to guilty, with Mazhar pleading guilty to participating in activities of an organised crime group.

Dicks had pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing last year to conspiracy to steal.