POLICE believe a “highly professional soldier” could be behind the armed raid on the Earl and Countess of March at Goodwood House.

The couple were tied up and forced to hand over £700,000 worth of heirlooms during the raid on the stately home in January 2016.

Police now believe the violent thief is responsible for a string of attacks at wealthy properties across the South East and have released CCTV footage of their suspect.

Detectives believe “well-spoken intelligent thief” who raids homes armed with a sawn off shotgun may have a military background because of the meticulous way he has carried out seven raids in a three year period - each time leaving virtually no forensic evidence.

CCTV from a home in Maidstone Berkshire- which has been linked to the Goodwood House robbery and other raids in Kingswood, Sevenoaks and Virginia Water in Surrey -shows the muscular 6ft tall suspect take a sawn-off shotgun out of his bag before entering the house.

Detective Inspector Dee Fielding, from Surrey Police, said the use of cable ties, the level of planning and his confidence in carrying out such raids alone suggested he had a forces background.

She said: “Each of these burglaries have been extremely distressing for the victims involved. “We do not believe this to be the work of an opportunist burglar, but someone who has specialist knowledge and skills - possibly ex forces or from a similar background due to the way he has behaved and the circumstances of each incident.

“The burglaries all appear to be the work of someone who knows exactly what they are doing.

“On each occasion unnecessary levels of violence has been used in addition to a firearm.”

“He appears to have knowledge of who is home at the time of each attack, the location of safes and the layout of the home.

“This leads us to believe he has planned the attacks in advance with a great level of detail and prior knowledge.”

Anyone with any information on the suspect should call 101 and ask for Surrey Police regarding Operation Prometheus, email OpPrometheus@surrey.pnn.police.uk

Alternatively call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.