A PAIR of masked intruders have been jailed for taking part in a burglary in which a shotgun, two rifles and ammunition were stolen by organised criminals.

Joseph Vaughan and Thomas Stapleton were working with at least one other man to target a flat in South Devon while the owner was working abroad.

The flat at Beechdown Court, between Berry Pomeroy and Paignton, contained a gun cabinet containing the three weapons, who of which had telescopic sights, and a locked safe containing the ammunition to go in them.

Both were stolen by a gang who wore hoods or balaclavas to conceal their identities and used a van and a car to make a series of visits to the flat. They even returned after police had been called.

They stole a Beretta shotgun and the two rifles, which they were seen removing in a large case and a bag by a neighbour, who challenged them and called the police.

The two men were living in the same shared house and police recovered valuable watches which were stolen in the road in a loft space above a bathroom. They also found a knuckleduster and a knife in Vaughan’s room and cannabis and cocaine in Stapleton’s.

The firearms have not been traced and the case is still being investigated by Devon and Cornwall police’s Serious and Organised Crime Group.

Vaughan, aged 26, and Stapleton, aged 22, both of Winner Street, Paignton, both admitted burglary and were jailed for four years and ten months and five years and three months respectively by Judge Stephen Climie at Exeter Crown Court.

He said: “This was the targeting of premises for the purpose of stealing firearms. It was a significantly well-planned burglary.

Miss Felicity Payne, prosecuting, said the flat was burgled on July 4 this year and Vaughan and Stapleton identified from CCTV which showed men making repeated visits to the flat.

The guns were secured in a cabinet with two different locks but both were opened with keys found elsewhere in the flat during extensive searches. They were worth £2,900 and another £2,600 worth of watches and other items were also stolen.

The ammunition was in a safe with a key lock which was removed in its entirety and has not been found by police.

Miss Rachel Smith, for Vaughan, said he had no idea of the seriousness of what he was getting into until he was arrested by the Serious Organised Crime Group.

Miss Victoria Bastock, for Stapleton, said he had a difficult background which led to substance abuse issues. He is now hoping to address his mental health problems, ADHD, and dyslexia.