STOLEN cars worth £1.1 million have been recovered in dawn raids across Essex and London.

Police have arrested 17 men aged between 19 and 48 and seized £180,000 in cash and recovered the stolen vehicles after the raids on Thursday morning.

Around 450 officers from Essex Police, the Met, and British Transport Police were involved as part of a joint investigation into the theft of cars.

The investigation involves the theft of 90 vehicles from across Essex and London worth almost £5 million.

Pre-dawn raids were executed in south Essex and east London, including the use of a jankel to gain entry to a location in Navestock.

In addition to the arrests, 25 stolen vehicles and parts from other vehicles were recovered, ten stolen flat bed van backs worth £100,000 found, equipment used for making new identities for stolen vehicles, as well as equipment used to gain access to keyless cars, and key cutting equipment.

A cannabis factory containing about 200 cannabis plants was found at one location in east London.

All of the men have either been bailed or released under investigation.

Chief Insp Lewis Basford, acting superintendent for West Essex, said: "Organised crime groups who carry out vehicle theft are sophisticated and professional, and this investigation is complex and will take time.

"These warrants were the culmination of excellent collaborative working between three forces but the work does not end here."

If police identify the victim of one of the stolen vehicles that were recovered, they will be contacted by the British Transport Police's investigations team.