Dereham cashpoint raid gang jailed

Two men from the Fens were in a hole-in-the-wall gang that forced Tesco to alter its security measures after bagging nearly �1m in cashpoint raids, including one at Dereham .

Two men from the Fens were in a hole-in-the-wall gang that forced Tesco to alter its security measures after bagging nearly �1m in cashpoint raids, including one at Dereham .

Store bosses implemented sweeping changes to its ATMs after being terrorised by just a handful of raiders, a court heard yesterday.

Geoffrey Manning, 33, John Smith, 35, and Wesley Smith, 26, stole from a string of big-name retailers during dozens of raids stretching from the Midlands to Wisbech, King's Lynn and mid-Norfolk.

They soon identified Tesco as their 'favourite' target because its machines were so easy to extract money from, Lincoln Crown Court was told.

Some 28 of the trio's 55 crimes were committed at Tesco stores, netting them around �640,000 of an estimated total of almost �1m.

Even when the firm had anti-drilling devices fitted to its cashpoints, the gang switched to using oxyacetylene torches and continued their plundering.

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Gordon Aspden, prosecuting, told the court: 'This was professional crime on a major scale. The motive for these offences was pure greed.'

The gang, who hid their equipment under bales of straw in the middle of the countryside, were finally brought down by an undercover police operation.

Mr Aspden said each of the raids, carried out over the space of 19 months, was 'well planned and executed with professionalism and efficiency'.

'On arriving at their target they would try to smash the door down with a sledge-hammer or, if that was unsuccessful, use a heavy-duty drill,' he said.

''They used a series of high-performance getaway cars with stolen number plates. On some occasions they would be in and out within minutes.

'Tesco was their favourite target, with numerous stores broken into, and by the end of March 2007 the gang were using oxyacetylene equipment. The reason for that was that Tesco, as a result of their activities, had changed the mechanism on their machines and fitted anti-drilling devices.'

Police detailed 55 separate incidents of either burglary or attempted burglary between April 2006 and October 2007 when the gang were finally caught.

Eighteen of the raids were in Lincolnshire. In Cambridgeshire, they struck at Asda and Tesco branches in Wisbech as well as targeting a filling station in Thorney, near Peterborough.

In Norfolk, the gang raided Tesco in Dereham in the early hours of Sunday, May 27, 2007. They forced a side door near the cash machine and broke one of the ATMs in half and made off with �38,000.

There was also an unsuccessful raid at Tesco in King's Lynn.

Just a few days before they were snared, the men stole �112,500 in a single night from two ATMs at an Asda in Wisbech.

They fled empty-handed from their final raid, at the Springfields shopping complex in Spalding, and were arrested shortly afterwards.

Manning, of Seadyke Bank, Wisbech St Mary, pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to burgle between April 1 2006 and October 31, 2007.

Steven Upton, 27, of Seadyke Road, Wisbech St Mary, who acted as a gateway driver for Manning, also pleaded guilty to the same offence.

John Smith, of Edgerley Drain Road, Peterborough, and his cousin Wesley Smith, of Palmers Road, Peterborough, admitted the same offence.

Jason Bingley, 29, of East Water Crescent, Peterborough, and Ross Drew, 35, of Godwit Crescent, Whittlesey, each admitted conspiracy to steal.

The court was told Bingley and Drew, who ran a car dealership in the Peterborough area, supplied the raiders with getaway vehicles.

Manning, John Smith, Wesley Smith and Upton were each jailed for nine years, while Bingley and Drew were both given 15 months.

Judge Michael Heath told them: 'This was serious, professional, organised crime which gained for you a lot of money. Greed was the motive. Each of these burglaries was well planned. They were executed with ruthlessness and efficiency. You knew exactly what you were doing.'