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    Men jailed for blowing up c-store cash machines

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    Two men, who blew up cash machines before raking in tens of thousands of pounds from a store in Northwood, Stoke-on-Trent, have now been jailed.

    Seasoned criminals, Wesley Shepherd and Benjamin Thompson, targeted convenience stores for cash last year, stealing more than £157,000, Manchester Crown Court heard on Monday (29).

    The pair targeted shops in Trafford, Rochdale, east Manchester and Stoke-on-Trent, where they ‘manhandled’ workers out of the building late at night, before using an ‘improvised explosive device’ (IED) to break into standalone ATMs inside each store. But after a fifth plot was foiled in Oldham last September, and the pair have now been jailed.

    After hearing details of the pair’s crimes, His Honour Judge Alan Conran KC said the “planned and highly organised” robberies were the first of their kind, with an IED being placed inside the cash machines – with the ‘disturbing’ tactic described as a ‘new modus operandi’.

    In their first of such crime, they targeted a c-store at around 10pm last April 5. The pair knew exactly when the shop was closing, with the shutter only part open to allow the shopkeeper to leave. With a crowbar, they made their way to the store and manhandled the store staff.

    The worker was then ‘ushered out’ of the shop by one defendant, while the second broke into the cash machine and set off the IED, the court heard. Thompson and Shepherd were unsuccessful in taking any of the £60,000 which was being stored in the machine – but the pair followed the same plan and three more convenience stores where they did manage to take large sums of cash.

    They also targeted the Co-op store on Grosvenor Street, in Rochdale, a few days later where two workers were forced out of the store before the explosion.

    The defendants managed to take £58,400 from the machine and caused £7,000 of damage. Their biggest haul was from the fourth incident at a store in Stoke-in-Trent last July, where £92,800 was taken, the court heard and £5,800 worth of damage was caused.

    The pair was later arrested from Oldham during their fifth such attempt. Both defendants had lengthy criminal pasts, with Shepherd having committed 20 offences, and Thompson having committed 13. The pair had previously been convicted together for conspiracy to rob in 2010, when they targeted ‘cash in transit’ vehicles.

    Thompson was sentenced to 16 years in prison, plus four years’ extended licence beyond that date while Shepherd was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison, plus four years’ extended licence beyond that.

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