Gang who targetted Luton cash machine as part of £1million crime spree are jailed

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A ram-raid gang who caused £1m worth of damage during a spree of cash machine thefts have been jailed for almost 30 years.

The thugs were caught on shocking CCTV targeting ATMs up and down the UK – including Luton – during a 19-month rampage between March 2021 and October 2022.

A court heard the organised crime gang escaped with £600,000 in cash stolen during 17 attacks at shops, train stations, post offices and petrol stations.

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The group would use a stolen van and straps to rip any stand-alone cash machines from the ground before fleeing in stolen high-powered vehicle on false plates.

Clockwise from top left: Patrick Gilheaney, John Smith, Tali Smith, William Boswell, Alfie Boswell, and Gordon McPhee. Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNSClockwise from top left: Patrick Gilheaney, John Smith, Tali Smith, William Boswell, Alfie Boswell, and Gordon McPhee. Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNS
Clockwise from top left: Patrick Gilheaney, John Smith, Tali Smith, William Boswell, Alfie Boswell, and Gordon McPhee. Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNS

For ATMs in buildings, they would use power tools or vehicles to smash through doors, then used a drill and other tools to access the contents inside. Again, the robbers would flee with the cash in a stolen car on false registration plates and only communicate using 'burner' phones.

East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU) and Police Scotland found the gang had travelled the length and breadth of the country to carry out the raids.

Detectives said they were coordinated by a core group of three – Patrick Gilheaney, 34, John Smith, 32, and Tali Smith, 34.

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The trio then used partners, relatives and other associates in an ‘on-call’ capacity to ensure the criminal operation ran smoothly.

Video grab of the criminal gangs ATM raids across the UK.Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNSVideo grab of the criminal gangs ATM raids across the UK.Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNS
Video grab of the criminal gangs ATM raids across the UK.Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNS

Most of those responsible were based in Leicestershire, who also used a key contact in Scotland to enable a number of attacks across the border.

Police made a breakthrough in January 2022 when Gilheaney and John Smith travelled from Peterborough to Scotland in a Fiat motorhome and returned a few days later.

A blue Saab and a stolen grey Audi RS4, both on false registration plates, also made the same journey and four ATM attacks were carried out during that time.

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Searches of the vehicles linked through ANPR (Automated Number Plate Reader) footage and CCTV, led to Scottish bank notes, drills and saws and receipts for items such as face masks, gloves and dark clothing later being recovered.

Video grab of the criminal gangs ATM raids across the UK. Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNSVideo grab of the criminal gangs ATM raids across the UK. Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNS
Video grab of the criminal gangs ATM raids across the UK. Picture: Leicestershire Police / SWNS

In November 2022, hundreds of officers from across seven forces carried out an execution of a number of warrants leading to several arrests.

Items seized included stolen high-powered vehicles and car parts, further high-value vehicles and motorhomes, more than £30,000 in cash and two imitation firearms.

Gilheaney’s DNA was found on a crowbar left in a vehicle used during a raid in Loughborough, Leics., on March 15, 2021.

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Tali Smith’s DNA was discovered on the key to a stolen transit van, used in an attack in Attenborough, Notts., in September 2021.

Ten defendants have now been sentenced to a total of 29 years and eight months behind bars after admitting a range of offences at Leicester Crown Court.

Sentencing, His Honour Judge Brown said: “These are serious and organised crimes, and I have a duty to impose substantial sentences.”

Gilheaney, of Loughborough, Leics., and John Smith, of Spalding, Lincs., were jailed for seven years and six months for conspiracy to commit burglary with intent to steal and conspiracy to steal.

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Tali Smith, of Bagworth, Leics., was caged for six years and eight months for the same offences.

Alfie Boswell, 32, also of Bagworth, was handed a five year terms for conspiracy to steal and assisting an offender.

William Boswell, 24, of Bagworth, was sentenced to three years imprisonment for conspiracy to steal.

Sarah Haynes, 35, of Bagworth, and Victoria Smith, 35, of Spalding, were jailed for 12 months, suspended for 24 months, for assisting an offender.

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Rosie McAllister,28, of Bagworth, and Francis Gilheaney, 33, of Loughborough, were also given the same sentences for assisting an offender.

Gordon McPhee, 37, of Pumpherston, Edinburgh, was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary with intent to steal and conspiracy to steal after a trial in February.

He was sentenced to six years behind bars.

Detectives will now pursue the gang under the Proceeds of Crime Act in a bid to make them pay back their ill-gotten gains after little of the stolen cash was recovered.

EMSOU Detective Chief Inspector Darren Brown said: “This was a brash but technically skilled organised group, which found strength as a close-knit, omni-competent criminal community, operating under a clear leadership.

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“On the face of it, this type of crime may seem victimless, but in attacking ATMs this group have attacked at the very heart of the community.

"Residents were left without a local means of accessing their cash.

"Many of these attacks also left vital community conveniences, such as Post Offices, petrol stations and ‘corner’ shops out of action while they were repaired.

"And then there’s the associated residential burglaries and thefts of the vehicles used in the crimes.

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“The sentences given today reflect how seriously the criminal justice system views this type of organised offending and the harm it inflicts on society.

“Through some expert investigation and concerted effort we have also demonstrated the level at which UK policing can collaborate across county and country borders in order to protect our communities.”

The gang's crime spree in full:

15 March 2021 - Loughborough - Burglary £600

24 August 2021 - Carronshore, Scotland - Burglary £120,000

4 September 2021 - Attenborough, Notts - Theft £53,630

22 November 2021 - Bo’ness, Scotland - Theft £37,670

24 November 2021 - Milngavie, Scotland - Theft £37,660

25 November 2021 - Wester Dechmont, Scotland - Burglary £18,550

1 December 2021 - Peterborough - Burglary £93,390

8 December 2021 - Wolverhampton - Theft £41,430

17 December 2021 - Luton - Theft £7,130

17 December 2021 - Worcester - Theft £0*

24 January 2022 - Dorchester - Theft £38,400

30 January 2022 - Milngavie, Scotland - Theft £0*

30 January 2022 - Ayr, Scotland - Theft £44,670

31 January 2022 - Motherwell, Scotland - Theft £123,970

1 February 2022 - Livingston, Scotland - Burglary £0*

6 October 2022 - East Midlands Parkway - Theft £0*

7 October 2022 - Southampton - Theft £35,510

Total: £652,610

*In those cases where no cash was stolen, the attackers were either disturbed, unsuccessful in gaining entry to the ATM or the ATM was empty.