West Malling: Pair Sentenced Over Tobacco Raid

Two burglars who smashed their way into a West Malling newsagents to steal thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes and tobacco have been sentenced.

Stan Charlie Abbey, 29, of Priestfield Road, Gillingham, and Ian David Thomas, 35, of Wordsworth Way, Dartford, appeared before Maidstone Crown Court on Thursday 24 April.

Investigations by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate found the pair targeted Martins newsagents in High Street, West Malling, in the early hours of Tuesday 14 January.

Three men arrived outside the shop just before 12.40am in a silver Saab estate. Two of the occupants, Thomas and Abbey, got out of the car and threw a paving slab through the door window of the premises to gain access.

They took with them a large builder's-style bag and inside stole a large quantity of cigarettes and tobacco worth more than £5,000. As they made their way out of the shop, they also helped themselves to £91.11 worth of sweets and confectionary.

They left the shop, struggling to fit the bag full of tobacco through the hole in the glass they made, before eventually getting into the Saab with the unknown driver and making off.

At junction three of the M2, a police patrol spotted the Saab exiting the motorway and gave chase. They lost sight of it in Taddington Wood Lane.

A short while later, officers saw a man wearing dark clothing appear out of a wooded area. He told them he had been out walking for the night but his clothing was almost completely dry despite the heavy rainfall at the time. He was arrested and identified as Ian Thomas. A further search of Thomas found he had a black, handmade balaclava.

A short distance away, officers found the abandoned Saab and could see in the boot a large builder's bag full of cigarettes. Further searches of the vehicle found it had been reported as stolen from London and had been displaying several sets of false number plates - one of which was found to have Stan Abbey's fingerprints on it. Forensic evidence also found prints belonging to Thomas in the vehicle.

Enquiries with Medway Council found the Saab, whilst on false number plates, had been issued a number of parking tickets in Priestfield Road - the same road Abbey lived in.

Detectives also discovered that, following the arrest of Thomas, two soaking wet men approached a taxi driver in Walderslade, just a short distance from Thomas' arrest, and asked to be taken to Priestfield Road, Gillingham.

At 4.10am on 14 January, a further cigarette burglary took place at the Co-op, Gillingham Road, Gillingham. Two men smashed their way into the shop and stole a quantity of tobacco.

Abbey was arrested later that day, by which time officers had found enough evidence to charge him for the burglary at the Co-op in Gillingham Road on 14 January as well as a previous one at the same address on 2 January.

At earlier hearings, Abbey pleaded guilty to both of the Co-Op burglaries in Gillingham. Both Abbey and Thomas also admitted burglary at Martins Newsagents in West Malling.

On Thursday 24 April, Abbey was sentenced to two years and 12 weeks in prison. Thomas given an 18 month suspended sentence for two years.

Senior investigating officer, Detective Sergeant Jon Faulkner of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "Abbey and Thomas were determined to make some money in the early hours of 14 January. The burglary in West Malling was pre-planned and involved the use of a stolen vehicle.

"But far from being cunning, they were brought down by their own stupidity and by the hard work of my investigation team. They left fingerprints all over the Saab, almost got stuck trying to squeeze their haul through the shattered window of Martins Newsagents and accrued parking fines outside one of their home addresses for a stolen car.

"Then Abbey, having lost his haul from West Malling, decided to target a similar shop around the corner from his home - one he had burgled only a few weeks earlier.

"The evidence secured by the investigators was overwhelming and forced these two offenders to admit their guilt. Today's sentencing sends a clear message that crime does not pay in our county."

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