Jail for thieves who hit businesses in Marlborough, Pewsey, Aldbourne and Froxfield
A gang of safe thieves who raided pubs, clubs and businesses during a year long campaign of burglary have been jailed.
Jesse Gregory, David Royles, and Joseph Butler, struck in Pewsey, Froxfield, Aldbourne and Marlborough during the series of 120 raids in 2014.
The gang, which almost certainly included others, plundered more than £200,000 from isolated buildings on the edges of county towns across the south west.
Gregory, 50, Royles, 54, and Butler, 25, targeted the safes and tills of family businesses, charities, golf clubs, garden centres and other business.
Among the businesses raided was the Pelican, at Froxfield, where £3,250 was taken along with a watch belonging to a member of staff
They also raided the Three Castles Brewery, Aqua Aid, Darlings Dog Food and the Murco garage in Pewsey, Aldbourne Sports and Social Club, and the visitor centre at Whitefield reservoir in Marlborough.
While Gregory got 10 years for being involved in 99 of the night time raids, Royles, admitted being involved in 27 and Butler, 33 of them, and each got seven years.
Barnaby Shaw, prosecuting, told Swindon Crown Court how the operation was 'professional' and 'sophisticated' with careful planning.
He said it was not possible to say who was the main player in the team which must have involved others who were not before the court.
The men were kitted out in masks and camouflage clothes and often approached their target by driving cross-country to avoid being seen on CCTV.
Generally using Subaru Forrester cars they would then cut their way through fences and force doors before jemmying safes from their mounting.
Slings attached from the back of the vehicle would then be put round the safes so they could be pulled out, smashing walls and doorways as they went.
Angle grinders were also used to cut into them either on the premises or after they had been taken away.
Although the cash haul from the raids was £211,484 a further £471,847 worth of damage was caused to the buildings.
Mr Shaw said the men were caught after a number of items left behind with DNA on were found and their mobile phones and car movements were tracked.
It is thought they used more than 15 vehicles in the spree of crimes, one even being found burnt out when they realised it had been seen at a raid.
As well as targeting pubs like the Pelican at Froxfield and the Riverside Restaurant at Lechlade they also smashed into the Stonehenge visitor centre.
And in another raid in Salisbury they also caused thousands in damage to the Shaw Trust charity and pinched hundreds belonging to its staff of disabled workers.
When they were disturbed at a business in Warminster one of the gang hit a man with a metal bar as he confronted them, though Butler and Royles denied being there.
Mr Shaw said that the effect on the businesses had been 'catastrophic' with at least one going to the wall as a result of the losses.
He added that as well as money from the safe, numerous items belonging to staff, some who were on the premises at the time, were also taken.
Gregory, of Railway Cottages, Brinkworth, Royles, and Butler, of, Gloucester admitted conspiracy to burgle.
Matthew Harbinson, for Gregory, said his client was now very sorry for what he had done and had lost his father while inside awaiting sentence.
Clare Fear, for Royles, said he was full of remorse and now understood the impact on victims of his crimes.
Dawn Burrow, for Butler, said he was the youngest, his wife was now pregnant with their fourth child, and would not come before the courts again.
Jailing them Judge Peter Blair QC said "You wreaked havoc, frankly, over a 12 month period. The impact on victims, some of them small family businesses, has been incalculable.
"There was wanton destruction in the burglaries and no though to the damage caused. That has had a significant impact on people, many will never get over it.
"They are left feeling vulnerable, not feeling safe any more. Possibly only a few are ruined financially.
"There seems to have been really no thought spared for the destruction and damage of all kinds that you have caused."
Police explain how gang was tracked down
The majority of offences occurred in Wiltshire so a small team of detectives from the Salisbury Priority Crime Team with assistance from other colleagues took ownership of the case and worked with the other forces to get justice for over a hundred victims.
On May 28, 2015 a large team of officers from Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Thames Valley Police carried out raids on a number of addresses in Wiltshire and Gloucestershire and arrested the men.
The same modus operandi was used during just over a year of offending from 1 January 2014 - 20 January 2015. They targeted commercial properties in isolated rural areas such as garden centres, golf clubs and service stations during the night.
The men used Subaru 4x4s to approach the targets ‘off road’. This became a major factor in the conspiracy as Subaru vehicles can be seen in the majority of CCTV footage gathered by the detectives and were often described by witnesses at the scene.
The men used varying amounts of force to enter the properties, even using their vehicle to ‘ram’ a building, removing an entire exterior wall. The trio specifically targeted safes and would attempt to remove the whole unit. They tied straps around the heavier safes and used the Subaru’s to drag them out to be forcibly opened later.
Officers believed that Gregory and Butler attempted to cover their tracks by using 17 different mobile phones between them during the period of offending.
Detectives painstakingly scrutinised call records and used cell site analysis to pin point phone numbers directly attributed to the men in a large number of the burglaries.
DC Jem Horner said: “These men caused a colossal amount of damage to businesses, apart from around half a million in damage to property and £211,484 in cash stolen, the additional financial implications, inconvenience and distress and have had a far higher toll on the victims. They left behind a trail of destruction, which in this case added to the pattern and led to their capture and an end to their crime spree.”
DS Nigel Porter said: “The success of this operation is down to the expertise of the team and effective collaboration with the other forces. This joint effort in close partnership with the Crown Prosecution Service has enabled us to secure these convictions and get justice for the many victims.”