Jury hears that armed gang was challenged in Eversley before ambushing security staff
Armed gang members were challenged by an Eversley parish councillor just hours before they carried out a robbery at a Farnborough bank, as he thought they were fly-tipping, a court has heard.
The jury in the Winchester Crown Court trial over 41 alleged offences, including a bank raid at Farnborough's Santander, has heard how Cllr Shawn Dickens drove past a group of balaclava-clad men in Eversley on the night of January 9 but was sworn at when he asked what they were doing.
It is alleged that the gang then ambushed G4S security guards with a sledgehammer and metal disc cutter at 10.30pm as they filled up the ATM machines outside the bank in Eastmead, taking £85,000.
Evidence continues to be given in the trial, now in its third week, where the four men deny conspiracy to commit robbery and burglary.
Andrew Smith, 27, of Montrose Avenue in Slough, Richard Loveridge, 27, of Ditton Road in Datchet; Lee Fitzgerald, 37, of Perrycroft Road in Windsor, and Stewart Last, 28, of Filmer Road in Windsor, are all accused of involvement in the offences committed during a six-month period between August 4, 2011, and February 8 last year, throughout Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Surrey.
It has emerged that Hampshire detectives have linked the gang to other offences in the build up to the Santander robbery, including the theft of number plates from a car parked in Napier Gardens in Farnborough between December 5 and 6.
Also included was an offence of making off without payment from Shell petrol station in Farnborough Road, Farnborough, on the evening of September 13 2011, and the theft of a car off a driveway in Ravenswood Avenue, Crowthorne, between November 25 to 26 that year.
This is in addition to number plates stolen from cars parked outside houses in Fakenham Road, Sandhurst, on August 31 2011 to assist with the other crimes, which the court heard details of last week.
CCTV evidence was shown to the jury last Thursday of one of the 41 heists where three of the gang members allegedly used a crowbar to intimidate staff and rob a Tesco Express store in Lychpit, Basingstoke, on December 29 2011.
Prosecutor James Newton-Price showed footage of two men bursting into the shop and forcing staff to the ground before loading a rubble sack with cigarettes.
“In total, they took £2,650 from the tills and around £7,000 worth of cigarettes,” he said. “A third man, meanwhile, waited outside the store in a black BMW 1 Series.”
Mr Newton-Price read statements from four innocent people caught up in the raid – two members of Tesco staff and two members of the public – who said the men wore black balaclavas, while one brandished a three-foot-long ‘hooked’ crowbar. The store’s team leader recalled one of the robbers shouting ‘we can do this the easy way or the hard way’ before they demanded he empty the tills.
The prosecution said that the car was driven ‘at speed’ back to the gang’s lockup at Longfield Farm near Windsor where the haul was stashed.
The jury also heard how police were able to trace a number of mobile phone calls between members of the group which linked their location to the lockup.
The trial continues.