Police are appealing for help from the public after a chain of armed burglaries across the south-east, with officers suggesting an ex-soldier might be responsible.
Surrey Police have set up Operation Prometheus to find the person responsible for seven violent and high-value burglaries across Surrey, Kent, Sussex and Thames Valley thought to have been committed by a lone offender with specialist skills. The burglaries are described as extremely violent and some of the victims were tied up.
Officers believe the burglar might be ex-services or military, due to his levels of preparation and his commanding nature when committing the crimes. On each occasion he has used violence and the threat of a sawn-off shotgun to take jewellery and other items.
The spate of burglaries began in October 2014 in Kingswood, Surrey, and the most recent offence took place in the same village and the same month last year. In between the suspect has also committed robberies in the areas of Maidenhead, Chichester, Sevenoaks, Maidstone and Virgina Water.
Police believe they are looking for a white man of stocky/muscular build who is around 6ft tall and has a south of England accent. The suspect is described as a "confident man, comfortable operating alone", who might be away from home regularly for extended periods of time and has income disproportionate to their job or means.
Police also believe the suspect is extremely thorough, as he appears to be aware of the layout of the homes he targets and is thought to watch the properties before committing the burglary.
Detective inspector Dee Fielding, from Surrey Police, said: "Each of these burglaries have been extremely distressing for the victims involved.
"We do not believe this to be the work of an opportunist burglar, but someone who has specialist knowledge and skills - possibly ex-forces or from a similar background, both due to the way he has behaved and the circumstances of each incident. The burglaries all appear to be the work of someone who is confident, commanding, who knows exactly what they are doing, and who is incredibly decisive in their actions.
"On each occasion unnecessary levels of violence have been used in addition to a firearm, which he has used to threaten the victims. Several of the victims were tied with cable-ties.
"He has worked quickly and appears to have a knowledge of who is in the home at the time of each attack, the location of safes, and the layout of the property. We have evidence that he was watching several of the houses prior to the burglaries, sometimes for weeks at a time.
"More than £1 million worth of property has been taken in total including irreplaceable heirlooms, some of which have little to no monetary value but are hugely sentimental to the victims. However, this investigation is primarily driven with the aim of preventing any further harm coming to anybody else by identifying and bringing a violent and dangerous man to justice.
"Whoever is responsible for these incidents may seem to have cash or income disproportionate to their job, they might also be travelling frequently, or away for long periods of time without explanation. If you are aware of someone who fits the description and profile, or someone who is behaving suspiciously - we urge you to get in touch with us immediately.
"If you have information about any of the individual incidents please come forward. We are particularly keen to hear from anyone who may be able to help identify this suspect. If you have any information you think can help, please do get in touch."
Officers have also released CCTV footage of one of the burglaries, which you can see below.