Five men who formed part of an organised criminal network which was involved in cash machine raids across the South East – including an attempted ramraid in St Peter’s – have been jailed for a combined total of over 22 years.
Appearing before Woolwich Crown Court today (January 31), ringleader Adrian Gowers, 55, of Derwent Way, Gillingham, was sentenced to seven years and two months imprisonment. He had previously admitted being involved in five incidents reported across Kent and Essex between February and July 2019.
Phillip Barnard, 25, of High Street, Chelmsford; David Eves, 48, of Larch Road, Dartford; John Lee, 49, of New Waverley Road, Basildon, and Billy John Lee, 28, also of New Waverley Road, Basildon, each admitted conspiring to steal cash machines.
The organised crime group were responsible for causing £704,691 in damage to businesses. They also stole vehicles and tools to the value of £32,185.
The five were arrested following an investigation by detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.
During the early hours of Monday 22 July 2019 they targeted a cash machine in Essex. The men were travelling away from the scene in a van with stolen number plates when they were stopped and arrested.
Officers recovered over £100,000 of cash from the van, which had been specially adapted with a hole in the roof to allow for the cash machine to be dropped into it quickly.
Detectives were then able to link individual members of the gang to four similar thefts in Kent:
- An attempted theft at the Co-op in Hopeville Avenue, St Peter’s on Sunday, February 24;
- The theft of a cash machine from a supermarket in Longfield Road, Tunbridge Wells on Thursday 4 April;
- An incident on Monday 20 May at Hempstead Valley Shopping Centre, Gillingham, in which a cash machine was stolen;
- An attempted theft from Watchgate, Lane End, Dartford on Wednesday 10 July.
Barnard was jailed for three years and seven months and John Lee for five years and nine months. Eves was imprisoned for two years and three months and Billy Lee was jailed for three years and seven months.
Detective Inspector James Derham of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “These men had absolutely no regard for the damage their crimes had on the communities they targeted.
“They put the public in danger with their reckless actions, crippled businesses, caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage and stole plant machinery which prevented businesses from moving forward with building works. In short, their selfish actions had severe consequences for many people including the local communities who relied upon these facilities.
“The officers involved in the case worked with sheer tenacity to painstakingly piece together the movements of those involved and other key evidence, leaving these men with no other option but to admit their part in the conspiracy.”