Four men have been jailed after they toured the country cutting through the walls of supermarkets with a circular saw to steal from cash machines.
The quartet raided stores across the West, from Dorset to Gloucestershire and carried out more than 30 raids as far away as Norfolk and Lincolnshire.
Some of the crimes were masterminded from a rented cottage near Taunton that members of the gang used. Among the stores raided were ones at Nailsworth in Gloucestershire, and at Sherborne and Bridport in Dorset.
They were eventually caught after they inadvertently allowed their faces to be seen on CCTV while scoping out a raid on the Bridport store, a year after the first raid in Kent.
Noel Reilly, 33, David Holmes, 31, 35-year-old Darren Buckley and Simon Phillips, 33, are thought to have pocketed almost £700,000 from the raids, which were exclusively on Co-op supermarkets.
Birmingham Crown Court heard how the gang would wear facemasks to cover their identity, and steal high-powered cars to getaway from the scene, with cloned number plates on the stolen vehicles.
They would first use axes and hammers to smash through the door of the supermarkets – more than 30 in total – and then power up a petrol-driven circular saw, normally used to cut through railway tracks, to break into the cash machines, many of which were freestanding in Co-op stores.
They attacked stores in Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire and Herefordshire, as well as in the South East and the Midlands. Reilly and Holmes were jailed for seven years, while Buckley was given a sentence of five years and seven months. Phillips was jailed for five years.
Insp Warren Hines said the gang were caught after they were spotted on CCTV at the last job in Bridport, “trying to obscure their faces with their hands”.
Neil Cartwright, prosecuting at Birmingham Crown Court, said the gang – who rented a Somerset country cottage to operate from – had a “significant and relevant” history of criminality.
In total, the court heard the gang stole £684,210 – but only £83,000 was recovered when they were arrested.
Holmes and Reilly were both on police bail when the offences were committed and Reilly was on licence after serving part of a 10-year sentence for robbery and possession of a firearm.
Mr Cartwright said the gang used a triangular-shaped template to get into the back of the cash machines to avoid the security mechanisms.
“The gang used a metal template that was similar to a snooker triangle," he said.
“If it was placed in exactly the right place, it did not set off the automatic locks. It was clearly designed by somebody who had an intimate knowledge of that particular type of cashpoint and the locks.”
The gang also used £250,000 of stolen high-performance cars – usually Audi RS4s and BMWs – as getaway cars during the 14-month campaign. One of these was stolen at a burglary in Taunton.
Mr Cartwright said: “When the abandoned vehicle was discovered in Solihull, all four brake discs were glowing red hot.”
Police said since the raids the design of the ATM machines has been modified.