THREE balaclava wearing raiders who travelled into North Yorkshire to target three remote farms have been jailed.

Police caught two of the gang up a tree and a police dog found the third crouching behind a motorway barrier nearby after officers spotted them heading back over the county boundary and called in a police helicopter to help track them, said Rob Galley, prosecuting.

Officers were on the alert on the A1(M) near Wetherby because one of the victims woken by his burglar alarm going off had looked out his window and seen a balaclava-clad man by his outbuildings and later three balaclava-wearing figures on his CCTV. He had gone outside and heard the three making their escape over metal plates in a nearby field.

In a statement, one of the victims said: “I cannot get the thought out of my mind what could have happened. Three masked men on my property, not knowing their intention, is a terrifying thought.”

Abraham John Fox, 28, of Rowanwood Gardens, Bradford, and Ross Sutcliffe, 29, of Stirling Crescent, Bradford, were both on prison licence at the time. Together with William Lowther, 48, of Copgrove Road, Bradford, they all pleaded guilty to three burglaries of farms between Knaresborough and Wetherby on January 15. Fox and Sutcliffe were jailed for 32 months and Lowther for 28.

The Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris, said the farmer who saw the three on his CCTV must have been traumatised by the experience.

He told the raiders: “All three of you have pleaded guilty to a professional expedition, setting off from Bradford, no doubt, or possibly Doncaster, tooled up with balaclavas, lock picks, a monkey wrench and a vehicle out at night at isolated farmsteads.”

Simon Hustler, for Fox and Lowther, said they had actively avoided alerting the residents, or confronting them and all the outbuildings that items had been stolen from had been away from their associated farmhouses.

They had not had a trailer on their pick-up truck so could not take items such as a quad bike at one of the raided properties, and everything stolen had been returned to its owners.

Andrew Walker, for Sutcliffe, said the families of the three would suffer most by their imprisonment.

Mr Galley said the raiders stole tools and sports equipment worth thousands of pounds from one farm and hundreds of pounds from the other two.