Cash machine raiders who stole more than £500,000 jailed for a total of 29 years

A gang who used power tools to steal more than half a million pounds from cash machines has been jailed for a total of 29 years.

CCTV footage by Cheshire Constabulary
CCTV footage by Cheshire Constabulary

The gang targeted at least 19 cash machines across England and Wales – including, police believe, one in Pant, on the Shropshire and Mid Wales border.

The four men responsible appeared at Liverpool Crown Court earlier this week where they were sentenced – all had pleaded guilty at a previous hearing.

Top, from left, John Price and Arthur Gaskin. Bottom, from left, Crimea Price and Lee Leatherbarrow.

They were Lee Leatherbarrow, 33, of Lascelles Street, St Helens, who was jailed for seven years and six months; Crimea Price, 32, of Southworth Road, Newton-Le-Willows, who was jailed for eight years; Arthur Gaskin, 35, of no fixed address, who was jailed for seven years and six months; and John Price, 27, of Newport Street, Burslem, who was jailed for six years.

The court heard how, between March 11 last year and July 7, there were 19 incidents where supermarkets and shops containing standalone cash machines had been targeted overnight.

It is estimated more than £500,000 in cash was stolen from machines during the spate of attacks.

Watch CCTV footage of the gang:

Cheshire Police said they believed those targeted by the gang included the cash machine at McColl's in Pant, on the A483, on April 6 last year.

Cheshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit launched an investigation that month following a raid on at a store on Longshaw Street, Warrington, during which a police car was rammed’ by the group as they fled the scene.

During their enquiries into the gang, named Operation Hades, officers identified links to offences spanning the width of the North of England down to the Midlands and crossing the border into Wales.

Police believe the gang targeted McColl's at Pant. Photo: Google.

On each occasion the gang would conduct a reconnaissance of the machines, with one of the group using one of the machines in the weeks prior to the offence, and once an exact location and day was identified this would kickstart a specific chain of events.

On the chosen day, the group would use mobile phones to communicate and co-ordinate a meeting place before they left these devices at home or at an agreed meeting point.

This meant, or so they thought, that officers could not track their location through their mobile devices.

They then would use stolen vehicles, namely two BMWs and a Volkswagen Golf Type R to get to their rendezvous points. One of the vehicles was found to be stored in a garage in Lowton, Wigan, which the group thought was a safe location.

In another bid to try to cover their tracks, they also used multiple cloned number plates relating to similar car makes and models.

They would then steal Ford Transit vans and follow in convoy with one of the other vehicles to travel directly to the store that was to be targeted.

When at the location, they would use power tools such as an angle grinder to gain entry to the stores,and would then drag the machines out, causing huge damage, before loading up the stolen vehicles with cassettes containing cash.

Their downfall was when officers from Cheshire Constabulary started a pursuit of the getaway BMW which reached speeds of up to 90mph in a 30mph zone, after the final burglary at a Co-operative store in the village of Moira, Leicestershire.

Members of the gang attempted to injure officers and stop the pursuit by throwing items such as a fire extinguisher and bricks out of the vehicles.

Once reaching an area of safety, officers performed a tactical stop on the vehicle, resulting in the arrest of both Prices and Gaskin.

Inside the BMW, seven sets of number plates, four bottles of disinfectant, numerous bricks used to attack police and items stolen from the shop were discovered alongside a sledgehammer and circular saw.

Further enquiries led to a warrant being executed in St Helens, with Leatherbarrow arrested. It was not long after that all were then subsequently charged with conspiracy to commit burglary.

Detective Inspector Nick Henderson, from Cheshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: “This case shows that no matter how hard you think you have worked to cover your tracks, our officers will always be one step ahead of you.

“This gang left a trail of destruction for their own selfish gain – they may have stolen in excess of £500,000 in cash but this does not account for the damage caused to the shops, ATM machines and around 20 vehicles that were stolen in order to commit the offences – in total this investigation identified a loss of £1 million.

“This was by no means a victimless crime, this gang ruined businesses and caused huge disruption to local communities and residents, but thanks to our investigation we were able to put together an extensive catalogue of evidence which left the OCG [organised crime group] no choice but to plead guilty to the offences put to them – even if it took some time for them to agree.

“They will now be behind bars for a combined total of 29 years and I hope this acts as a lesson to those who think they can come into Cheshire to commit crime – we will find you and bring you to justice.”

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