A THIEF who wore a disguise to steal from lockers in gym changing rooms was traced through DNA found on a wig he left behind, a court heard.

Paul Hughes, from Coventry, stole bank cards and driving licenses and used them to steal £28,948 from gym customers’ bank accounts.

Winchester Crown Court heard on Friday that on a number of occasions in February, April and May last year, Hughes went into the changing rooms at at Parkwood Health and Fitness Club in Salisbury and at the former Rose Bowl in Southampton, and broke into lockers with a screwdriver.

He stole bank cards and driving licences and then, along with Mark Adam Goddard and Michael George Mcloughlin, also from Coventry, went to scores of banks in the area as quickly as they could to draw out as much cash as possible.

They later went gambling in Bournemouth with the stolen money and stayed in hotels using fake names. Charles Gabb, prosecuting, said: “This was a well organised, well thought out, well practiced conspiracy. It was extremely effective in netting cash quickly with very little effort.”

Hughes and Goddard both have previous convictions for thefts of the same nature and while on bail for this offence, Goddard went on to commit a string of similar offences in London.

Sentencing, Judge Guy Boney said: “This was the theft of belongings in a position where people would expect their property to remain safe, and the raiding of people’s personal bank accounts.”

“It is almost as bad as a sequence of burglaries,” he added.

Goddard, 40, was given a seven-year prison sentence and Hughes, 45, was jailed for four years.

Mcloughlin, 55, who was paid by Hughes and Goddard to be their driver, was sentenced to 12 months in prison suspended for two years.

Judge Boney said: “You are extremely lucky. You are a complete fool and how you became involved with these two perils no one will ever know.”

The men pleaded guilty to conspiracy and they were sentenced at Winchester Crown Court on Friday.