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25 September 2013, 18:36
A thief who took part in a failed raid on a Hampshire petrol station, that led to a cash machine being blown to pieces, has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
£165,000 of damage, has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.
Damien Limb, who's 27 and from Bristol, was the driver for the bungled heist at a Texaco station at Weyhill near Andover on 31 March 2013 that completely destroyed the ATM, causing £165,000 of damage - and scattered £20,000 of cash across the forecourt as well as damaging petrol pumps and the station's canopy.
The heavy door of the ATM was blown 25 metres and sliced through an inch thick stanchion "like a knife through butter".
The cash machine contained £20,000 but the gang only managed to scoop up £3,400, with more than £16,000 recovered.
Police said afterwards that the thieves were lucky they did not kill themselves or others by using oxygen and propane gas pumped into the machine to blow it because they had no control over the blast
Residents nearby heard a "huge explosion" at 3.15am on March 31 this year as debris was hurled 38 metres away.
The masked gang had prized open the machine using a crowbar at the filling station in Weyhill, and pumped the mixture into it through hoses then sealed the hole with paper, Winchester Crown Court heard.
After 40 seconds, the mixture ignited, probably due to an electrical circuit inside or heat from the machine, and it blew up.
The whole operation and the explosion was captured on CCTV, which showed the ATM being completely destroyed before three men dressed in black started scrambling about trying to pick up £20 notes.
The damage to the garage was £150,000 and the ATM cost £15,000, the court heard.
Tattooed Limb, from Lichfield Road, Bristol, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and conspiracy to cause criminal damage with unknown persons, as the rest of the gang has not been caught.
Limb was traced because police followed a trail of cash and wheel tracks from the cylinders' trolley from the scene, under a bridge where a receipt for water and a small amount of petrol from a garage in Bristol was found.
CCTV from that garage identified Limb.
The drug user said he did not realise the other gang members would cause so much damage and he was not present when they tried to steal the cash because he stayed in the van.
Michael Warren, prosecuting, said: "As a result of that explosion, police were called and were quickly on the scene and the equipment used to blow the ATM was found.
"Two canisters of oxygen and propane gas were around the corner and also against a wall was a five foot wrecking bar, a Volvic bottle with petrol in it and a wick and by that a bottle top that had the defendant's DNA and a partial match for two other people.
"It is not a particularly well known method of attacking an ATM machine and it had devastating results," the barrister added.
In mitigation, Richard Onslow said Limb, who has a string of previous convictions for burglary and attacking cash machines, had fallen in with the wrong crowd but he was no mastermind.
"He was asked to provide transport, which he did for this enterprise," he said.
"Asked to carry three others and canisters of oxygen and propane to Weyhill which he did, told where to park and he remained in the van.
"He knew that some damage would be caused to the ATM but he did not expect what happened was going to happen.
"As he waited in the van he heard the explosion and the others returned.
"The defendant is not the leading light in this conspiracy but he accepts he was wrong by becoming involved in it."
Mr Onslow explained that, on three occasions, Limb had been caught by police at the scene of his crimes.
Once when he was "frothing at the mouth" through drink and Valium, once hiding in bushes and once dangling inside a building after he had fallen through the roof.
"Your honour may take the view that man who has these things happen to him is not the mastermind of any operation," the barrister said.
Sentencing Limb, Judge Jane Miller QC said the huge explosion had cause huge destruction that had made the ATM door slice through the stanchion of the canopy "like a knife through butter".
"Had anyone been passing at the time, clearly some injuries would have been caused," she said
She said that because the other gang members had not been found, Limb was "taking the rap" and even though he was not there he must take responsibility for what happened.
Speaking after the case, detective constable Paul Harfield said:
"The gang is fortunate to be alive because they had no control over that explosion and they could hurt others."