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Hole in the Wall gang JAILED

PUBLISHED: 17:13 24 June 2009 | UPDATED: 10:48 23 August 2010

MESS: Asda at Greenhithe after the raid in June 2008.

MESS: Asda at Greenhithe after the raid in June 2008.

TWO ramraiders who used JCB diggers to net £180,000 in a series of cash machine thefts have been jailed following a police crackdown on organised crime. Jon Cloke, of Rochester Road, Gravesend, was sentenced to five years and nine months at Maidstone Cro

TWO ramraiders who used JCB diggers to net £180,000 in a series of cash machine thefts have been jailed following a police crackdown on organised crime.

Jon Cloke, of Rochester Road, Gravesend, was sentenced to five years and nine months at Maidstone Crown Court on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old admitted to stealing or attempting to steal cash machines as part of a gang using stolen JCBs at Asda, Crossways Boulevard, Greenhithe, last June, Tesco, Courteney Road, Gillingham, last September and NatWest, London Road, Larkfield, last October.

Tony Hart, 22, of Bryony Drive, Kingsnorth, Ashford, was also sentenced to six years and six months at the same hearing for his part in the raids on Natwest and Tesco.

The two men were arrested following extensive joint investigations by Kent Police's Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) and regular north Kent officers.

Detective Inspector Tom Richards from Kent Police's SOCU told the Reporter: "I think historically this type of criminality has been seen as an easy option to invest relatively little effort for a great deal of financial benefits.

"Over the last two or three years we have received more convictions and greater sentences than in any other time in Kent Police's history.

"We always ensure the message gets out that we will pursue offenders for this type of crime and put a great deal of effort and resources into ensuring that if you commit this type of crime you will be captured by the police and you will be successfully prosecuted."

Officers spent many hours painstakingly gathering forensic evidence to link the thieves to the crime and bring them to justice.

In total the gang bagged around £180,000 in cash, stole £240,000 worth of vehicles and caused more than £500,000 worth of damage as the diggers wrecked the buildings housing the cash machines.

Det Insp Richards said: "In a case like this our forensic strategy was absolutely vital. We examined the JCBs and the stolen vehicles used in the offences, the scenes themselves and the ATMs we recovered looking for fingerprints and DNA evidence and evidence that linked the offences together so that we could say that the different offences were being committed by the same group of criminals."

During the last two and a half years Kent Police has carried out extensive operations to target cash machine thieves successfully convicting 15 men with sentences totalling 99 years and three months.

Det Insp Richards said: "It is very satisfying indeed. ATM ramraid offences have been a big problem in Kent for quite some time and about two and a half years ago the Kent Police Serious and organised Crime Unit really took it on as a priority and put in a lot of effort and resources. I think the 15 convictions over the last two and a half years speak for themselves and we are obviously very satisfied with the sentences the court has decided to issue.."

Two other men believed to have been involved in the offences are still at large.

Det Insp Richards said: "When you look at what the witnesses recalled about the offences and when you look at some of the CCTV evidence we have it is clear that we haven't identified everybody involved so far.

"When you look at the number of vehicles involved and the specialist skills involved in driving some of them it would be very rare for this type of offence to be committed by only two people.

"We've invested a lot of effort into this and previous investigations and we certainly intend to bring everybody to justice that we possibly can." jason.goodyer@archant.co.uk

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