“Thieves are not welcome here.”

That is the strong message from the mayors of Dereham and Fakenham after supermarket staff and police worked together to help put away a gang behind an astonishing crime spree at Morrisons supermarkets.

Dereham Times: Morrisons in DerehamMorrisons in Dereham (Image: Google Maps)

After an eight-month crime spree that started in October 2022 came to an end in Norfolk on May 2 when a security guard at the Fakenham store noticed a large amount of printer ink had gone missing.

Using CCTV footage he was able to identify the suspects and warn the Dereham store that the offenders would likely target them next.

Last week, Robert-claudiu Alexe, 24, and Elena-brindusa Efta, 35 - appeared at Norwich Crown Court and were jailed.

Items they targeted included goods they could sell quickly for big profits including alcohol, cosmetics, make-up, hygiene products such as razor blades and electric toothbrush heads, Nicorette patches, ink cartridges and batteries.

Dereham Times: Hugh King, mayor for DerehamHugh King, mayor for Dereham (Image: Royal British Legion)

Fakenham mayor Angela Glynn and Dereham mayor Hugh King said they were pleased about the convictions of the members of the gang, which used foil-lined bags to walk off with at least £65,000 worth of goods from Morrisons outlets across England and Wales, were arrested in Dereham.

Mr King said: “It makes me incredibly proud of Dereham. With the increasing population, a rise in crime is likely, so the police will have their hands full, any assistance we can provide is great.

“It shows that thieves are not welcome here.

“The town council is very supportive of our local police and working together in partnership in any way we can help.”

Prosecutor Matthew Edwards said it had been a “sophisticated and organised” operation that extended well beyond Norfolk - striking on at least 47 occasions in 26 separate counties.

Dereham Times: Angela Glynn, mayor of FakenhamAngela Glynn, mayor of Fakenham (Image: Archant)

Mrs Glynn added: "Reading media reports on the sentencing of the shoplifters who targeted Morrison's stores across England and Wales, and knowing that it was the sharp-eyed actions of the security guard in our local shop was really heartening.

"It is also reassuring to know that two of the gang are now serving prison sentences thanks to staff here in Fakenham and at the Dereham store.

"Fakenham has an enviably low crime rate according to statistics that councillors receive from Norfolk Constabulary, and hopefully it will show residents that thieves are not welcome here." 

Dereham Times: John Travolta with people in Dereham and FakenhamJohn Travolta with people in Dereham and Fakenham (Image: Jamie Salter/Nicola Gee/Gary Middleton)

However, one person he would both welcome back is Hollywood A-lister, John Travolta - after his surprise appearance last April.

He was in Norfolk filming for The Shepherd, a new film set to release on Disney+ in December - which both mayors hope to watch.