Preston crime gang plead guilty to stealing £250k of goods including Bentley, Land Rover and Audi cars

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Six men from Preston, with 260 previous offences between them, all pleaded guilty to their part in what Judge Robert Altham described as "serious organised criminality."

A crime gang from Preston which netted goods worth more than a quarter of a million pounds in raids on businesses during Covid lockdown was smashed by a painstaking police operation, a court was told.

Six men from the city, with 260 previous offences between them, all pleaded guilty to their part in what Judge Robert Altham described as "serious organised criminality."

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Four were sent to jail for a total of more than 11 years, one was handed a suspended prison term and the sixth will be sentenced in January after being unable to attend court due to ill health.

The court heard the six were tracked down using state of the art mobile phone technology and automatic number plate recognition (ANPR).

Judge Altham, the city's Honorary Recorder, said they had been brought to justice thanks to a "complex and difficult investigation where police had to work hard to piece together what these men had done."

Amongst the property stolen was a Bentley car which was eventually recovered after officers spotted it on CCTV cameras having its number plates changed, tailed it and eventually stopped it on the M6 motorway.

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During the hearing family and friends of the accused were twice warned by the judge that he would clear the packed public gallery if they continued to disrupt proceedings. In the end he restricted each of the defendants to just one person in court.

Jailed (Left to right top and the bottom) Andrew Harrison, Kieron Parkinson, Gary Hampson and Harry AshbyJailed (Left to right top and the bottom) Andrew Harrison, Kieron Parkinson, Gary Hampson and Harry Ashby
Jailed (Left to right top and the bottom) Andrew Harrison, Kieron Parkinson, Gary Hampson and Harry Ashby | NW

Kieron Parkinson, 31, of Acregate Lane, Ribbleton was sent to prison for three years and four months. Andrew Harrison, 33, of Sheffield Drive, Lea was given a three-year term and Harry Ashby, 23, from Maitland Close, Ribbleton was sent down for two years and seven months.

Gary Hampson, 24, of Ecroyd Road, Ashton, who pleaded guilty to just one offence, was jailed for two years in his absence after he refused to attend court from prison where he had been on remand.

Martin Kilpatrick, 30, from Pope Lane, Ribbleton, who was also charged with just one offence, was given a nine months prison sentence suspended for 18 months and ordered to do 150 hours of unpaid work.

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And Mark Wallis, 30, of Wilbraham Street, Ribbleton will be sentenced separately on January 12 because he was said to be too ill to make the journey from prison to court.

Barrister Paul Brookwell, for the prosecution, said a time-consuming police operation was launched after a series of commercial premises across Lancashire were hit by night-time burglaries during periods of lockdown in 2020.

He explained the arrests had come about as a result of a team of officers putting together data over a period of time from mobile phones and matching it with results from number plates on ANPR.

All the burglaries were carried out late at night, with different permutations of gang members - together with others who had not been identified - committing the offences. The common theme was the men would wear dark clothing, face coverings and gloves so no DNA evidence was left at the scene and none of the burglars were identifiable on CCTV.

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Cars were used with false number plates in a bid to thwart ANPR and break-ins were carried out using crowbars to force entry or, in at least one case, a car was used to smash its way in.

"They (the men) are all from the Preston area," said Mr Brookwell. "But they often travelled outside of the Preston area in order to commit offences at night."

The first raid was on the premises of Clutch-Tech Ltd in Frank Street, Preston where the owner had locked up and secured the property with metal shutters. But at around 1 am some members of the gang including Parkinson and Hampson smashed open the shutters with a car and got away with high-value tools worth around £60,000. The tools were never recovered. Two motorcycles and a van were also stolen.

One of the motorbikes was recovered by the business owner after he spotted it being ridden. The other was found in the kitchen of Parkinson's home. He was arrested but denied the theft and was freed on bail pending further enquiries.

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Mr Brookwell said Parkinson then went on to commit other offences, but there was no evidence that Hampson had any involvement with the rest of the burglaries.

The gang struck again at Yarrow Bridge Garage on Bolton Road, Chorley. The owner discovered a £25,000 Land Rover had been stolen from the forecourt during the night. The offices had been entered, the company safe had been pulled from the wall, and around £3,500 was taken from it, along with two other cars from the forecourt.

ANPR cameras showed the vehicles had all been "driven in convoy" back to Preston. CCTV showed there had been four men who had carried out the raid. The cars were all recovered from near to Parkinson's home in Ribbleton. The cash was never found.

Three men in dark clothing were seen attempting to get into Pennine Service Station on Longsight Road, Blackburn one night and the alarms were triggered. They fled empty-handed in a car Harrison had bought only recently for £400.

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The kiosk of a Shell garage in Heyhouses, St Annes was also raided. Two of the men forced a fire door, but again an alarm was set off which filled the premises with smoke. The men escaped in the same car as in the Blackburn attempted burglary.

Another garage was targeted on another night in Accrington with the gang getting away with cigarettes and alcohol worth £4,603, together with £175 in cash from the shop. Cameras spotted four men hooded and gloved breaking in with a crowbar. None of the property was recovered.

McColl’s store in Bamber Bridge was the next to get a visit, although once again the alarm was activated at 2:20am. The shutters were forced and a "large quantity" of cigs and 31 bottles of alcohol were snatched. Police arrived quickly on the scene and pursued a Vauxhall Astra with four men on board. Officers lost it and it was later found abandoned in Preston.

Another break-in at A&E Wheels on Ashton Business Park, Preston saw 100 sets of wheels, valued at £32,000, stolen, together with some cash and two vans. Only 36 of those wheels were recovered from a house in Preston, with the remainder, worth between £15,000 and £20,000 never found.

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A dog health company called Fit and Fertile, on a farm in the north of Preston, was raided one night with men arriving in a Vauxhall Corsa. The raiders stole high quality laboratory equipment and a Bentley car, together worth £102,140. They also took a Bentley gilet and a flying jacket. The equipment was not recovered, but Wallis had searched Bentley body-warmers on his phone around that time and had then offered a Bentley for sale online.

The expensive motor was taken to Walton-le-Dale where it was handed over to another person - who was also arrested - and it was eventually stopped on the M6.

Finally a Premier convenience store in Eaves Lane, Chorley was targeted with four masked and gloved men arriving in an Audi car and forcing their way in through the back door. A witness contacted the police and officers arrived quickly to arrest Kilpatrick nearby.

The other three made their way back to Preston, but Wallis' DNA was found on a drinks bottle in the store.

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All six men were said to have multiple previous convictions, mostly for offences of dishonesty. Harrison, Hampson Wallis and Kilpatrick all had previous convictions for burglary.

Judge Altham told the men their offences were "serious organised criminality" and that the raids had shown "very sophisticated planning."

The burglaries all had an impact on the businesses raided. It was said one company boss had been forced to take out a loan to pay for the damage done to his property and replace some uninsured goods. Another had suffered a serious setback in business while trying to replace expensive laboratory equipment from around the world.