EIGHT Romanian men who travelled from Birmingham to steal cable from the railway line near Evesham have been sentenced to a total of 23 years.

Following a major investigation by the British Transport Police, the men, aged between 19 and 36, were sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Jan Trofin, aged 36, Alexandru Tofaleanu, 29, Mihai Mihart, 26, Mihai Binta, 27, and Florin Cojocaru, 19, all of Parkhill Road, Stefanel Ruset, 19, of Kentish Road, Christian Toader, 24, of Selsey Road and Costinel Mijloc, 24, of Highfield Road, Birmingham, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal railway cable from the railway network.

Trofin, Mihart and Binta were also recommended for deportation on completion of their sentences.

One man, Marius Stana, is believed to have fled to his native Romania while on bail and is currently wanted by police in connection with the conspiracy. A total of 11 men were arrested by police, including three men who were later released without charge.

The court was told that the organised gang travelled from their homes in Birmingham to target isolated, rural stretches of the railway line between Evesham and Moreton-in-Marsh in Gloucestershire.

Between November 3, 2011 and May 24, 2012, the gang struck at least 22 times in the hours of darkness stealing, in total, about 6,000 metres of cable.

The thieves cost Network Rail between £450,000 and £500,000 to replace and repair the cables and also fines incurred to train operators as a result of the delays and disruption caused.

Some of the gang also targeted the railway line in Church Lawford, Warwickshire, following increased police patrols in the Cotswolds.

Detective Inspector Andy Irwin-Porter, who led the investigation by the British Transport Police investigation, said: “We are delighted to have concluded this investigation but, rest assured, we will not become complacent in the fight against cable thieves who disrupt everyone’s life by attacking communities and causing delays and massive inconvenience to everyone who uses the rail network.”