Three men have been jailed for more than 12 years after being found guilty of stealing the possessions of passengers, worth £100,000, from airports including Heathrow.

South American nationals - José Martin Encarnacion Flores, Reynaldo Willy Weston and Juan Gabriel Romero Hernandez carried out a series of 'distraction thefts' at Heathrow Airport, London City Airport and Stansted Airport between September 6 and September 12.

A fourth accomplice - José de Jesus Boada Penaranda was found guilty of carrying out similar offences and will be sentenced on December 4.

Investigating officer, PC Barry Munnelly, of the Met Aviation Policing Command, said: “The Met is absolutely committed to detecting, disrupting and arresting those involved in any criminal activity at London’s airports.

“These criminals arrived in the UK in August with the express purpose of carrying out callous acts of theft against elderly and vulnerable people.

"However, following their first offence, officers were quick to identify and arrest them."

Aviation Policing Crime Squad officers trawled through CCTV and succeeded in linking the suspects to their offences.

Weston and Hernandez committed thefts at Heathrow Airport on September 6, September 9 and on September 12 .

Officers observed that the suspects usually worked as a team and used distraction techniques on elderly and unsuspecting travellers, who were either leaving or had arrived in the UK.

They also found a silver Mercedes car was parked in the area at the time of the offences and connected them to this vehicle.

Officers traced the three suspects in their Mercedes to a supermarket carpark in Camberwell.

As the suspects appeared to drive off - officers moved in and arrested them on suspicion of theft.

The vehicle was searched and a bag was recovered which matched one they had seen on CCTV being used during the offence on September 6 at London City Airport and at London Heathrow Airport three days later.

The gang was taken into custody at Heathrow police station and charged with theft.

On November 5, officers traced Penaranda to east London and arrested him at Bethnal Green Underground Station.

PC Barry Munnelly continued: "They will now spend a considerable time behind bars before being deported.

"Stolen items have also been recovered and returned to their rightful owners.

“Police officers regularly patrol airports to make them hostile territory for criminals to snatch valuables from members of the public.

“As a result, airports are generally very safe places to be, but nevertheless, I want to get the message out to members of the public about the importance of remaining vigilant and aware of your surroundings at all times and of keeping your property secure.

"These crimes happen in an instant."