A 26-year-old man has been jailed for his part in the high value, daring and audacious smash and grab raid on three jewellers at intu Watford last August.

Gheorghe Cretu, of no fixed address, helped pull off one of the biggest and most elaborate heists Watford has known when thieves successfully broke into the central shopping centre and got away with thousands of pounds of designer watches and jewellery.

Police and several fire crews were busy dealing with a number of fires and dangerous makeshift road blocks around the ring road next to the centre when masked raiders forced entry to the building through shoe shop Gordon Scott at around 2.40am on Friday, August 29.

The thieves then smashed the display windows at neighbouring jewellers Beaverbrooks, Ernest Jones and Swag to snatch dozens of high value items.

Investigating officers believed the arsons, which destroyed two cars and damaged another four in Gladstone Road, and a heavy duty metal chain attached to posts across Beechen Grove were a bid to distract emergency services and prevent them attending the burglaries.

Cretu was caught in October after a similar carefully planned raid at Leslie Davis Jewellers in Eagle Walk, centre:mk, Milton Keynes, which saw thieves make off with an estimated £1 million worth of merchandise.

No jewellery has so far been recovered from either raid.

Cretu appeared at Aylesbury Crown Court having previously admitted conspiracy to commit burglary in both cases, and was sentenced to two years and three months.

He was initially charged with two other men, but the Crown Prosecution Service decided in December to offer no further evidence in the case against Bogdan Acsinte, 28, of Colegrave Road, Stratford, and Robert Caia, 27, of Prosser Street, Wolverhampton, after receiving outstanding forensic results.

It said: "The CPS decided that there was insufficient evidence for a realistic prospect of conviction and the suspects were released from custody."

Hertfordshire Constabulary, which launched task force Operation Chesterfield after the offences in Watford, said they were not actively looking for anyone else in connection with the raid.