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Credit Crunch

PUBLISHED: 11:58 26 June 2008 | UPDATED: 09:54 23 August 2010

A forensics officer examines the scene

A forensics officer examines the scene

AN EYE-WITNESS to a daring triple cash machine raid has spoken about the moment he saw a JCB crash through his garden. The resident, whose identity has been protected for fear of reprisals, said the awesome ram raid at Asda, Greenhithe, on Saturday too

AN EYE-WITNESS to a daring triple cash machine raid has spoken about the moment he saw a JCB crash through his garden.

The resident, whose identity has been protected for fear of reprisals, said the 'awesome' ram raid at Asda, Greenhithe, on Saturday took a matter of minutes.

With residents facing fuel and food price hikes a brazen gang using three vehicles created their own 'credit crunch' as they bulldozed through the building at 3.30am.

The audacious bid could have netted the gang over £250,000 after they stole three ATM machines, found empty and dumped at a cricket club.

It is the latest in a series of ATM thefts that have plagued north Kent for several years.

Early on Sunday morning officers arrested a 22-year-old man from Gravesend and released him on police bail later the same day as they continue to probe the raid.

An eye-witness said: "It was quite unbelievable really. I heard this loud crashing and banging and naturally looked out but could hardly believe what I was seeing.

"There were about three vehicles just coming down this tiny alley, not big enough for a car but it did not matter.

"They just pushed their way through demolishing everything in sight. They burst through and forced their way along the alley and the gardens demolishing fences and walls and taking away the side of Asda. The noise was horrendous. It was an incredible racket the house was vibrating and even shaking at one point.

"All of a sudden this massive digger came to a halt, turned 90 degrees and just started digging out the machines, digging in to the side of Asda. It was like a scene from a movie, quick, planned and total destruction."

It is the second time in a year that the machines have been targeted. In July last year gunmen stole £132,000 from security guards as they loaded cash machines at Asda, Greenhithe. Paul Collins, 25, from Essex, was later sentenced to nine years for his part in the raid.

The part of the building containing the machines was destroyed during the raid where thieves then used a 7.5 tonne flatbed lorry to escape with their haul. It was used alongside another vehicle, possibly a 4x4, both of which drove through a hedge instead of using the car park exit.

The digger was driven into the gardens of the development of new homes and dumped in the garden of number 2 after the raid. It had been stolen just yards away at a site run by Knight Environmental. Police discovered the cash machines, along with two vehicles used in the raid, later the same day in the grounds of Betsham Cricket Club, High Cross Road, Bean.

The eye-witness added "It took a matter of minutes, maybe 10, the police were there quick but this was very, very well-planned and co-ordinated. Sheer might, speed and strength were used to literally slice their way through like a knife through hot butter, it was quite remarkable.

"I could see no faces in the vehicles, it was dark and the security panels on the JCB were still up concealing identity. The must have smashed through the front window, quite clever because it looked like there was no-one driving.

"Although I watched and was on the phone to police I did not see any person at any time. This was well planned, professional.

"I know this is not the first incident in north Kent but how do you stop it? A JCB like this will literarily smash through anything, a house if it had to.

"People say you should increase security on building sites but again if someone can break in they will smash there way out of the site. Where there is a will there is a way and this will continue to happen.

"You could even technically hire one with a false name and use it. It is almost unpreventable."

Detective Inspector Ian Dampier, who is leading the investigation, said: "We have a lot of new information we are following up, but we still want to hear from anyone who may have witnessed the theft on Saturday night or may have seen any of the vehicles involved in the days and hours running up to the theft.

"We also want to hear from anyone who may have seen or heard anything unusual in the Bean and Betsham area, both on the night of the raid and also in the proceeding days."

Asda's security team are working with police to study CCTV footage.

It has not been revealed how much was in the cash machines at the time of the raid but they were empty when discovered by police.

Manager Richard Adams said staff on duty at the 24-hour store witnessed the robbery and it was not yet known how much was in the machines.

He said: "They phoned the police straight away and they came within minutes

"It was all over very quickly and there was no time for anyone to get scared.

Knight Environmental refused to comment on security at the site where the JCB was stolen from.

Call police on 01474 366086 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 with information.

Police are keen to hear from anyone with information about the following vehicles.

Vehicle 1: A dark blue, 7.5 tonne, flat bed Leyland Tipper lorry, registration number R22 BAT, that was used to transport the cash machines.

It was stolen from a builder's yard off Canal Road, Strood, shortly after midnight on Saturday June 21.

Police want to know about its whereabouts from the time it was stolen until it was dumped at the cricket club, especially an hour before the raid around Eagles Road, Greenhithe.

Vehicle 2: The thieves used a blue Jeep Cherokee, registration number N674 WKK, which was stolen from the Steam Packet public house car park in Station Road, Strood, at about 11.15pm on Wednesday June 18.

Police want to know where the vehicle was kept between the time it was stolen and June 21 and its movements on the night of the raid.

Vehicle 3: In addition to the vehicles used in the theft, police are also keen to hear from anyone who may have seen a dark 4x4 vehicle acting suspiciously in Eagles Road and around Betsham cricket club in the week prior to and also on the day of the theft.

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