Gang's spree of 41 burglaries and robberies included Santander in Farnborough, jury hears
A ‘violent and ruthless’ gang made off with £85,000 from a Farnborough bank after hitting a security guard with a sledgehammer, it was alleged at Winchester Crown Court on Wednesday (September 11).
Two men stole cash from Santander in Eastmead on January 9 last year as part of a six-month spree in which they, with two other defendants, carried out multiple robberies and burglaries – a total of 41 incidents – across Hampshire, Thames Valley, Wiltshire and Surrey.
Appearing for trial were Andrew Smith, 27, of Montrose Avenue, Slough; Stewart Last, 28, of Filmer Road, Windsor; Richard Loveridge, 27, of Ditton Road, Datchet; and Lee Fitzgerald, 37, of Perrycroft, Windsor.
The four deny conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit burglary in what prosecutor James Newton-Price said was a ‘series of crimes characterised by violent intimidation’.
A jury heard, at 10.20pm on January 9 2012, three of the defendants in a white VW Golf followed a Group 4 Security van from Bracknell to Farnborough. When the G4S van reached the Santander bank to make a cash delivery, two of the men, both wearing balaclavas and dark clothing, got out and rushed at security guards with a sledgehammer and a metal disc cutter.
One of the defendants hit the security guard in the chest with the sledgehammer. As he was wearing protective clothing, he was not seriously injured, but the jury was reminded ‘this was not a croquet mallet, it was a sledgehammer’.
“The robbers were prepared and ready to use violence,” Mr Newton-Price said. “They had done it before and they did it again.”
The two men got back into the Golf with the third man and took £85,000 in cash.
The Farnborough attack was the third in a series of major bank robberies, after one at Havant in November 2011 and one at Fareham in December 2011, where £50,000 and £105,000 was stolen respectively. The gang also allegedly committed numerous burglaries from shops and houses between August 4, 2011 and February 8, 2012 when they were finally arrested after the authorities found the gang’s base in Longfield Farm, near Windsor.
A sledgehammer, metal disc cutter and various stolen licence plates were found at the address in February last year.
The prosecution said that part of the reason the men were finally caught was down to their careless behaviour with their mobile phones on the day of the Farnborough robbery.
“They could barely contain their excitement and exhilaration at having been so successful yet again at the Santander bank,” said Mr Newton-Price. “One of them, it seems, could not help himself and made a cell phone call which police were able to trace. They were becoming careless with their phones after having been careful for so long.”
The prosecution told the court how the gang had originally been careful with the mobile phone usage, effectively shutting their phones down during the time of the robberies and making no outgoing calls. However, police were able to trace extensive phone usage around the gang’s base near Windsor.
“The police were eventually able to find mobile phone evidence that links this gang to a series of robberies that were going on for months,” Mr Newton-Price said.
“This was a violent and ruthless gang who used professional planning in their efforts to avoid capture. They terrified security guards and shop staff. They all refused to answer any questions during police interviews, and no explanations were offered when they had the opportunity.”
The trial continues at Winchester Crown Court and is expected to last for five weeks.