THREE men who admitted being involved in an audacious plot to rip a cashpoint machine from the wall of Liphook’s Co-op, were jailed for a total of 15 years at Winchester Crown Court today (Thursday, July 11).

The defendants used a stolen JCB telehandler to wrench the ATM out of the Headley Road shop’s frontage, and then dropped it in the back of a stolen transit van before making off.

All three were caught following a pursuit by officers from Hampshire Constabulary, Surrey Police and a helicopter from the National Police Air Service, across the three counties of Hampshire, Surrey and Sussex.

All three pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle on May 7, 2019.

Joseph Beech, 46, of Applegarth Avenue, Guildford, was sentenced to five years in custody for conspiracy to burgle.

Daniel Hilton, 33, of The Mead, Liphook, was sentenced to four and a half years for conspiracy to burgle and six months consecutive for dangerous driving after admitting being the driver of the getaway BMW.

James Sayers, 29, of Rushett Common, Bramley, Guildford, was sentenced to five years for conspiracy to burgle.

Sentencing the three, His Honour Judge Cutler described the burglary as a “professional and ruthless” crime that would have had a significant impact on a small town like Liphook.

The judge said he was unable to overlook “the shock and impact a crime like this causes, not to mention the thousands of pounds worth of damage to the shop frontage and stock”.

Judge Cutler added: “It must be of note for me to commend the police who were clearly very efficient in getting to the scene and tracking down the offenders so quickly. They were caught red handed and rightly arrested.”

The JCB telehandler was stolen from a building site in Liphook at around 3pm on May 6, 2019.

The court heard how on May 7, at around 2.25am, the JCB made its way up Headley Road before turning into the shop front of the Co-op.

Also at the scene were a stolen Transit van and stolen BMW M5. The transit had had its roof cut off and CCTV was able to capture the moment the telehandler dropped the stolen cash machine and its contents through the opening into the back of the van.

The offenders then abandoned the huge JCB in the middle of the road, making off in the van and BMW.

There followed a pursuit involving Hampshire Constabulary, Surrey Police and the National Police Air Service (NPAS).

At one point, the offenders’ getaway car, a stolen BMW M5, came nose to nose with a Hampshire police vehicle on a single track country lane in Waterlooville.

The driver of the stolen car continued forward, pushing the police vehicle backwards before making off at speed. The NPAS helicopter was able to track the BMW.

It then encountered a Surrey police vehicle on a woodland road in Surrey. It attempted to reverse but was halted when the police vehicle disabled the BMW.

Two were arrested immediately but the third offender made off. He was tracked by thermal cameras through woodland by the police helicopter who guided a dog unit in to make the arrest.

The cash machine and the transit van were recovered from a field in South Harting, West Sussex, where the suspects had been trying to break into it using disc cutters, crow bars and a sledge hammer.

The BMW M5 had been stolen from Petworth, West Sussex, on April 25.

The transit van had been stolen from an address in Liss on May 6.

Detective Constable Jo Murphy from Hampshire Constabulary said: “This was an audacious attempt to steal a cashpoint machine from a village shop - causing thousands of pounds worth of damage and unquantifiable disruption.

“As it turned out, their criminal activities were disrupted on the night by the sterling joint work of officers from Hampshire, Surrey and NPAS.

“There followed a complex and lengthy investigation and I would like to thank everyone who was involved in bringing these criminals to justice.”

Sgt John Clarke from Surrey Police’s Roads Policing Unit added: “We were able to respond immediately as soon as we became aware that the suspects were in Surrey. Working with our neighbouring forces is key to ensuring that we bring cross-border criminals to justice.

"ATM thefts cause misery and massive inconvenience for those businesses which are targeted, as well as causing a great deal of concern within the local community. The sentence given to these three men today has ensured that they will not be able to inflict further misery for a considerable period of time.”