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2 October 2014, 13:30
Three men have been sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison after admitting three other ram-raids and a series of house burglaries in Norfolk and neighbouring counties.
John Eli Loveridge, 38, his son John Stanley Loveridge, 19, and 34 year-old Leonard Smith broke into homes stealing high performance cars and would go on to use some in cash point raids.
In autumn 2013 detectives launched an operation targeting suspects after linking ram-raids at Weeting in September and Easton in October.
The enquiry also focused on a series of house burglaries across the region prior to the ram-raids being committed, during which the suspects stole high-powered vehicles. Between May and December the gang targeted homes in Chapel Lane, Shotesham All Saints; Brindle Drive in Mulbarton; Hall Drive in Honingham; Swallow Lane, Kerby Bedon; Mildenhall Road, Littleport, in Ely; Ferry Road, Carleton St Peter; Gorse Loke in Stanfield; West Row, in Mildenhall, Suffolk and Bunwell Road in Reach, Cambridgeshire.
The first ram-raid took place on Thursday 26 September 2013 at around 10.40pm when the gang used a green Cherokee to smash the front door of Weeting Post Office. Attempts were made to steal the ATM but nothing was stolen and the vehicle was abandoned at the scene.
Just over two weeks later the group struck again, this time targeted Easton College sports centre. A 4x4 was driven through the glass doors to the sports centre before the cash register from the ATM, containing about £26,000 was taken.
A cash machine containing about £12,000 was stolen from Namco Funscape in Bowthorpe on Friday 1 November. Two stolen vehicles, a 4x4 and a BMW, were used in the raid which happened at about 8.30pm on Barnard Road.
The investigation culminated in a covert policing operation at the UEA on 2 December after police received information suggesting the venue maybe targeted by criminals.
Shortly before 8.20pm that night a black Mercedes 4x4 approached the entrance of the Student Union and Loveridge (jnr) and Smith, dressed in white dust suits and balaclavas went inside while Loveridge (snr) waited outside with the 4x4.
A tow rope attached to the Mercedes was wrapped around the cash machine, allowing the suspects to rip the ATM from its base. The cash point, which contained in excess of £10,000, flew about six foot in the air and travelled about 20ft before crashing into a wall landing on the floor.
Police moved in to arrest the suspects who all made efforts to escape; Loveridge (jnr) and Smith were detained following a short foot pursuit and Loveridge (snr) was arrested after a police car rammed the Mercedes as he tried to escape in the 4x4.
Loveridge (snr), of Beck Row, Mildenhall, Loveridge (jnr), of Greenways in Newton Flotman and Leonard Smith, of Moat Way, in Swavesey, all pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to two counts of conspiracy to commit burglary and were sentenced today (Thursday 2 October) at Norwich Crown Court.
Loveridge (snr) was sentenced to six years in prison, Loveridge (jnr) to four years and Smith received a four year sentence.
The first count related to incidents at the UEA on 2 December, Namco Funscape in Bowthorpe on 1 November, Easton College on October 12 and Weeting Post Office on 26 September last year.
The second count was in relation to house burglaries in Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire between May and December last year.
Police have released dramatic footage which shows the gang stealing a cash machine from the UEA.
Investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Richard Dickinson, from Norwich CID said: "This was a challenging and lengthy investigation culminating in a successful covert operation which led to the arrest of the suspects.
We carried out a number of complex lines of enquiry to show their involvement in other crimes and this work ultimately led to the suspects entering guilty pleas.
This was an organised gang who were prepared to burgle houses and steal cars in order to commit further crimes. It's fortunate no one was injured when the gang carried out the raids as the technique used resulted in the cash machines flying through the air, as shown in the UEA CCTV, which could have easily hit an innocent member of the public.
Hopefully these sentences will bring some comfort to the many distressed victims and witnesses in these crimes who have suffered at the hands of these dangerous men."