A burglar who raided 12 houses using a sawn-off shotgun in a terrifying series of offences across the South East could have left the country or died, according to police.
Operation Prometheus was launched last year to track down the man who broke into Goodwood House among other high-value properties between 2006 and 2017.
Since that public appeal, police said there had been no further offences matching the same pattern, in which the burglar would tie up his victims using cable ties and take jewellery and other items, now believed to be worth a total of £10million.
No arrests have been made but police said they have eliminated 224 persons of interest and reviewed more than 10,000 documents relating to the offences as part of the combined investigation across Surrey, Sussex and Kent Police.
It is thought that the burglar’s ‘specialist skills’ and confidence systematically staking out houses may be due to a background of military training.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Preston said: “Since we went public with the appeal last year we have identified a further five offences, in addition to the original seven, which we believe may have been carried out by the same person.
“This is because of the very specific similarities in the ways they were committed, for example the use of ties, the commanding nature of the offender and the possession of a sawn-off shotgun.
“I would like to re-iterate our thanks to the public and media for their support when we appealed for help last year.
“The appeal generated a vast amount of information which we have been working through over the last year.
“I hope it is of reassurance that since the last offence occurred in October 2017, there have been no further offences identified that fit within this series.
“This may be down to a number of hypotheses, including that the offender has left the country or has died.
“We are under no illusions about the impact these cases have had on the victims and we have been absolutely committed to finding the person responsible. “We are confident that the lines of enquiry we have followed have been thoroughly tested and exhausted.
“At this stage we have gone as far as we can, but will of course re-examine these cases should any fresh evidence come to light.”
In addition to the 12 confirmed break-ins, police are considering whether another four offences may be connected to the burglar due to ‘significant links’.
The burglar’s modus operandi is to operate alone, and use a sawn-off shotgun and violence to threaten victims. He appears aware of a house’s layout, who is at home and the location of safes and valuables.
He is described as white, of stocky or muscular build and around 6ft tall and spoke to victims with a southern English accent.
The list, in chronological order, now includes 12 offences:
12/11/2014 – Kingswood, Surrey
21/01/2015 – Maidenhead area, Berkshire
13/01/2016 - Goodwood House, Chichester, Sussex
22/11/2016 - Sevenoaks area, Kent
January 2017 - Maidstone area, Kent
24/04/2017 - Virginia Water area, Surrey
26/10/2017 - Kingswood, Surrey
Police said the five new offences all took place in Surrey between 2006 and 2015.
Anyone with any information should call 101 and ask for Surrey Police and quote Operation Prometheus. Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.