THREE crooks involved in a daring but failed night-time bid to snatch a cash machine which was ripped from the wall of a Whitehaven shop have been jailed.
Stephen Cliff, Jonathon Mackenzie and Mark Cooke travelled from their native North East to carry out reconnaissance before the Spar store on Richmond Hill Road was dramatically ram-raided just after 2am on November 27.
Residents heard a loud bang as a stolen JCB smashed into the wall, and watched as it reversed with an ATM – containing tens of thousands of pounds – on straps. This was then dropped on to a flat-bed truck which had also been pinched, and driven away.
As a police officer pursued the tipper in an unmarked car on dark and winding roads, makeshift missiles torn from the cash machine were hurled by two offenders on the back, and attempts were also made to ram his vehicle. After the truck was deliberately crashed into a bridge at Moresby the suspects fled the scene, blocking the road and forcing police to abandon the chase. The cash machine was abandoned but damaged beyond repair.
Carlisle Crown Court heard today (THURS) how, as the police investigation continued, Mackenzie, 32, of Otterburn Close, Darlington, 37-year-old getaway driver Cooke, of Pearson Street, Spennymoor, and Cliff, 34, of River Walk, West Auckland, were all arrested hours after the incident.
All pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle. Cooke also admitted cannabis production, while Mackenzie admitted possessing the class B drug and had also been involved in a separate burglary at a Lancashire betting shop.
All three were jailed by Judge James Adkin: Mackenzie for 49 months, Cliff for 51 months and Cooke for 39 months.
Judge Adkin observed: “The offending bore many of the hallmarks of professional criminality.”
Detective Inspector Matt Scott said: “A lengthy and thorough investigation has resulted in these three offenders admitting the offences in court.
“Our detectives, alongside the Crown Prosecution Service, were able to evidence how the men had collaborated to travel to west Cumbria from the north east in order to attempt to steal an ATM containing tens of thousands of pounds.
“The men may have decided to strike in Cumbria in the belief the county would be a soft touch. However they begin their prison sentences today knowing they were mistaken.
“Cumbria Constabulary takes such offending extremely seriously and we will work diligently and tirelessly to bring such offenders to justice.”