May 30, 2018 1.51 pm This story is over 40 months old

‘Professional’ supermarket raiders face jail

The organised burglars left a string of gutted stores up and down the county

Two cousins who carried out a series of raids on supermarkets across four counties face “substantial” jail sentences after today being convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary.

Wesley Smith and John Smith were part of a three-man gang which carried out burglaries in Lincolnshire, Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire and Bedfordshire over a three month period last year.

Wesley Smith, 35, and John Smith, 44, both of Oxney Lane, Peterborough, were today found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to burgle between March 29 and July 1 2017 at the end of a trial at Lincoln Crown Court.

Both men denied the charge. Roy Langdale, 32, of Worcester Way, Royston, had earlier pleaded guilty to the same charge.

The three men will face sentence later but Judge Simon Hirst said: “Both the Smiths and Mr Langdale will receive substantial sentences of imprisonment for this.”

Gordon Aspden, prosecuting, said the three men stole cars to transport them to the scene of their crimes and used stolen number plates to disguise the identity of the vehicles.

He told the jury: “The offences had all the hallmarks of sophisticated professional crime. In the main all of the burglaries followed a similar pattern.

“Late at night or in the early hours of the morning a gang of three masked men who were dressed from head to foot in black, in a stolen high performance car displaying false number plates would drive to convenience stores in rural locations.

“The gang would break into the buildings using a burglars’ kit of tools.

“Having broken in, two members of the gang would ransack the premises stealing money and cigarettes while a third man would act as a sentry and a look-out ready to deal with any member of the public who tried to intervene.

“The gang was very conscious that the buildings they were targeting would be alarmed so they worked at great speed. The property they stole was often taken away in large black plastic bins they brought with them.

“The motive was pure greed. The total value of the items stolen was approximately £150,000. The gang also caused a quarter of a million pounds worth of damage to the buildings and the fixtures and fittings.

“At the conclusion the gang would drive away at high speed to avoid arrest. The stolen vehicles they used were either abandoned or set on fire. The gang was aware of police investigative techniques and would go out of their way to avoid leaving any evidence such as fingerprints. They did not use any mobile phones on the nights of the burglaries.

“They believed they were above the law and that they were so clever they would get away with it. They were wrong.”

The gang staged successful raids on Tesco stores in Market Deeping, Grantham and Ramsey. They also raided Waitrose in Oundle, Cooper’s Convenience Store in Kirton, near Boston, and Kate’s Cabin filling station at Chesterton, Cambridgeshire and carried out a number of other unsuccessful burglaries.

They were eventually arrested after police targeted a stolen Audi being driven in the early hours of the morning in Cambridgeshire.

Mr Aspden said: “The stolen Audi drove over a police stinger device near the village of Great Staughton but did not stop. It continued with deflated tyres and then on wheel rims at speeds reaching 100 mph.”

Items were thrown from the windows of the car which was eventually driven into a field and abandoned.

Wesley Smith and John Smith fled but Langdale was arrested. Clothing and other items were recovered by police. DNA testing linked the items to the three men.

The Smith cousins denied involvement in the conspiracy but were found guilty after a trial.

They are due to be sentenced on Friday with Langdale due to be sentenced at a later date.

Spotted an error? Please notify us by selecting that text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.