A prolific burglar has been jailed for 12 years.

Billy Francis, 33, of Durham Road in Manor Park, London, was charged in July last year with a series of burglaries.

They took place in Halstead, Buckhurst Hill, Brentwood, Loughton and Gravesend, as well as an aggravated burglary in East Church, Kent.

Eleven cars were stolen from Crossways Garage in Halstead High Street overnight on February 10 last year.

DNA belonging to Francis was found on the steering wheel of one of the remaining cars, which had been moved to allow the thieves to steal other ones.

Six of the stolen vehicles, a Maserati Gran Turismo, Seat Leon, Volkswagen Passat, Audi TT, BMW 318 and a BMW xDrive, were later found in Braintree and London.

Francis was also linked to an aggravated burglary in Kent through DNA he left at the scene.

A mother and two young daughters returned to their home in High Street, East Church, Kent, on May 11 and found Francis inside. He waved a screwdriver at them and pushed the mother, before running off. The screwdriver was left at the scene, which had his DNA on. The keys to two cars were stolen, but the cars were left behind.

A man woke to find a man in his bedroom at his home in High Road, Loughton, on July 6. Nothing was stolen and the suspect left the scene.

When CCTV was reviewed, a Mini Countryman car linked to Francis was seen in the area at the time of the burglary.

The occupants of a home in Davy Place, Gravesend, were on holiday on July 7 when their home was burgled, although nothing was taken. CCTV footage showed a man matching Davey’s description inside the property and then leaving in a Mini Countryman.

On the same day, a home in St Dunstan’s Drive, Gravesend, was burgled and jewellery and perfume stolen.

CCTV showed a man matching the same description as that of the suspect in the previous burglary. He also arrived and left in a Mini Countryman.

There was a further burglary at a house in Mascalls Lane, Brentwood, on July 20 in which two cars and a large sum of cash were stolen.

CCTV footage showed a Mini Countryman had gone to the property a number of times and a man matching Francis’ description.

The Mini – which was found to have been stolen from Barnes in south west London and using false number plates – was tracked down in Weymouth, Dorset, on 26 July. It drove off from officers, speeding and swerving around vehicles before crashing into a member of the public’s car.

The driver – identified as Billy Francis – attempted to run off but was arrested.

He was charged with five counts of burglary, one aggravated burglary, and making off without payment in Romford on July 23.

He was also charged with dangerous driving, taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, driving other than in accordance with a licence, driving without insurance, failing to provide a specimen for analysis and criminal damage, all in Weymouth on 26 July.

Francis pleaded guilty to the offences at Basildon Crown Court on Thursday 14 February and was jailed for a total of 12 years. He was also banned from driving for eight years and must take an extended test.

Detective Sergeant David Wilkinson, of Brentwood CID, said: “Francis is a brazen and prolific burglar, but forensic tests and CCTV played a key part in helping us identify and catch him.

“The long prison sentence he has been given reflects the seriousness of his crimes, particularly threatening a mother and two young children, which must have been terrifying for them.”