Five members of a criminal gang responsible for a series of raids on Wirral shops and post offices, including an ATM cash theft and assault in Lower Heswall, have been jailed for a combined 22 years at Liverpool Crown Court. A sixth received a suspended sentence.
The raid on the Lower Heswall Premier Express convenience store was typical of the gang’s method. An angle grinder was used to first cut through the roll down shutters protecting the shop, and then into the cash machine inside. It’s believed around £15,000 was stolen.
However, what distinguished this theft was the use of violence and a weapon. 39 year old David Ross was passing by the store as the men worked on the ATM. Two of them, wearing balaclavas, attacked Mr Ross, who was punched to the ground and received a wound from a bladed weapon as he protected himself.
The Court was told by prosecutor Simon Christie, ““He thought they were trying to rob him so he took £25 from his pocket. One of the males took the money off him, laughed at him and stamped on him. The second male said, ‘He’s had enough.’”
In addition to the Premier store theft, the other incidents were:
- A raid on McNaughton’s Newsagents in Woolton Road, Childwall, in January last year where an Audi rammed a police car as it fled the scene.
- A £60,000 ATM theft at a post office in Park Grove, Wallasey, in April last year. Witnesses were threatened by a man brandishing bricks, while an angle grinder was used to break open the cash machine.
- Raids on post offices in Teehey Lane, Bebington and St Pauls Road, Seacombe, and Aldi stores in Neston and Port Causeway, Bromborough, during April and July last year.
The Court heard that the gang was linked to at least 11 burglaries, but that the charges related to just seven incidents due to a lack of evidence.
Les McStein, 34; David O’Brien, 34; Stephen Roberts, 38; Craig Dobbins, 35; and John Huntington, 21; all admitted conspiracy to commit burglary while Craig Brennan, 33, admitted one count of attempted burglary.
McStein of Oxford Road, Egremont, was jailed for six years; O’Brien, of Fincham Road, Huyton and Stephen Roberts, of Wilson Road, Prescot for five years and five months each; Dobbins, of Airdale Close, Prenton, for three and a half years and Brennan, of Edgemoor Close in Prenton, for 10 months.
Huntington, of Ganneys Meadow Road, Birkenhead, was handed a two year prison sentence suspended for two years, with 275 hours of unpaid work and a four month curfew.
Detective Inspector Mike Dalton said: “I am delighted that we have managed to put this gang behind bars for a number of serious offences.
“These are not victimless crimes. These individuals have, when confronted by police officers or members of the public, used violence to ensure they were not detained.
“They have pre-armed themselves with bricks and when confronted by police officers thrown them at police vehicles to facilitate their escape.
“On one occasion they assaulted a member of the public who was simply passing by. The victim received ten stitches to a laceration to his hand caused by a knife and also a broken nose.
“Thankfully they are now behind bars where they belong.”