WATCH: Footage shows historic Suffolk building smashed by ATM thieves
PUBLISHED: 18:18 03 October 2019 | UPDATED: 12:34 04 October 2019
Five men have been jailed after carrying out more than 50 offences and £1million worth of damage to properties across the South East of England - including a ram raid at a Suffolk convenience shop.
Alfie Smith, 41 of Staines Road West, Ashford, Middlesex, Alfie Stanley, 41 of Beech Drive, Cambridgeshire, Levi Smith, 36 of Yeldham Road, Halstead, Essex and Kiah Roberts, 42 of Glamorgan Road, Ipswich were all sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on Friday, August 23.
Alfie Smith, Stanley and Levi Smith pleaded guilty to committing residential burglary, conspiracy to commit non-residential burglary and conspiracy to steal motor vehicles in relation to 52 offences, which occurred between March and November 2018 at an earlier hearing and were jailed for 14 years and eight months, seven years and eight months, and six years respectively.
Roberts denied the offences and had been due to stand trial in August but pleaded guilty to one count of residential burglary shortly before. He was jailed for 15 months.
Alfie Smith and Stanley were also charged with aggravated criminal damage. They both denied the offence but pleaded guilty shortly before trial.
They were jailed for a further two years and eight months each, to run consecutively to their original sentences.
A fifth defendant, Jimmy Broomfield, 32 of Yeldham Road, Halstead was charged with conspiracy to commit a residential burglary, conspiracy to commit a non-residential burglary and conspiracy to steal a motor vehicle in relation to offences between June 27 and August 7, 2018 only.
He denied the offences but was convicted on Tuesday, August 20 following a week-long trial and was sentenced at Isleworth Crown Court on Thursday, September 26 to five years' imprisonment.
The group's offences
The group carried out a total of 52 offences spanning Suffolk, Essex, London, Hertfordshire, Cambridge, Kent, the Thames Valley area, and Surrey - 17 ATM thefts, 23 burglaries and 12 taking of a motor vehicle. They caused more than £1million worth of damage to properties and stole money and vehicles worth more than £500,000.
The Met's Flying Squad began an investigation after Alfie Smith was forensically linked to an ATM theft which occurred at a supermarket on Thaxted Road in Saffron Walden on June 27, 2018.
Detectives identified additional, potentially linked offences and expanded their inquiries.
Working closely with colleagues from neighbouring forces, they identified a total of 52 offences linked to the group.
Before each ATM theft the gang stole a vehicle from a residential address, often using it to attempt to rip out the machine from within a venue, and then abandoned the vehicle at the scene or in a nearby location.
During a burglary on June 27,2018 at a supermarket on Thaxted Road in Saffron Walden, the group used a large excavator from a building site to smash through the front entrance.
On several occasions, the group used sledgehammers to smash windows and angle grinders to cut through doors. They tried to attach heavy duty straps to several cash machines and pull them from the venue using a vehicle.
Damage in Long Melford
During an offence in Long Melford, Suffolk on October 14, 2018 the group used a digger to smash through the front of the McColls convenience shop, narrowly missing a resident sleeping in the apartment above.
A local resident who saw the incident at the time said: "It was quite frightening while it was going on - but the whole thing only lasted about two and a half minutes. They appeared to know what they were doing."
They said that the incident had been very noisy and there were real fears that the 17th century building would collapse as the huge crack opened up.
Detective Constable John Richards, from the Met's Flying Squad, said: "This group of individuals showed a complete disregard for the owners and occupiers of the houses they stole from. Moreover, the danger they put the public and themselves in whilst committing these ram raids was mindless. It is only through sheer luck that nobody was injured.
"They were responsible for causing large amounts of damage to local businesses resulting in large financial losses, and on many occasions the damage to property has been such that the business had to close down, causing a loss of jobs.
"It is imperative that we continue to show organised criminal groups that this type of offending will not go unnoticed and will be dealt with robustly."