Send us news by text, start your message Globe News and your send photos and videos to 80360
Gang sentenced to 32 years behind bars for landmines theft
3:02pm Monday 16th September 2013 in News
Five men involved with anti-tank mines stolen from a Ministry of Defence train were today together put behind bars for more than 32 years.
Three of the gang, who had gone out to burgle a supermarket warehouse, stole the mines after coming across them on the freight train which had made an co-incidental and unscheduled stop nearby.
Liverpool Crown Court heard that Philip Yates, Kris Black and David Smith decided to see what they steal from the train and after forcing open a crate found the mines and within 15 minutes had unloaded 40 of them.
The mines, worth a total of £10,000 and each weighing nine kilos and 1.2 metres long, did not have detonation fuses attached but contained the highest grade of military explosive.
The trio left them by the side of the track at Dallam, near Warrington, after the theft in the early hours of October 25 last year and it was only at 7 am when the train reached Didcot in Oxfordshire that it was realised they were missing.
29-year-old Yates rang his uncle Michael Hellon to ask him to help identify the items and using the internet he correctly identified them. They left them hidden and returned the next day to collect them.
Sentencing the gang Judge Robert Trevor-Jones said that Yates had been at the centre of communications between Black, Smith, Hellon and two other men, Jason McKee and Leonard Ash, at whose garage Yates later cut up one of the mines.
There was considerable media coverage about the theft of these potentially dangerous items and an extensive investigation, including into the possibility of a terrorist attack, he said.
31-year-old Hellon confirmed that it was safe to transport the mines and Yates, Black and Smith drove back to check they were still there and it was then arranged for the other two defendants to help retrieve them that night.
Ash, 50, was recruited to drive a second vehicle in convoy so as many mines as possible could be moved while McKee waited behind on the Wirral but en route Ash "got cold feet" and pulled back.
"As a result only one vehicle was now available and it was only possible to remove 12 mines, leaving 28 behind, and they were concealed at the side of the road at Storeton Woods on the Wirral," said the judge.
The following Saturday, having decided the location was insufficiently secure, Yates, with Black and Smith, asked Hellon to help move them and they were concealed in a culvert except one which was taken to a Birkenhead garage run by McKee and Ash.
Yates sawed that mine open and the removed explosives were hidden about the premises. He made careful plans to hide the other mines while considering whether to sell them intact or sell the explosive content.
"That element is the most concerning in this case as the only market you might have been able to reach, those who would have been interested in this type of commodity, what be those with the most dangerous and harmful intent."
He said that fuses could have been bought on the internet and a video shown to a jury during the trial of Ash and McKee showed the result of a detonation. The mines are used to blow up tanks and compound walls.
After Yates was arrested, following some prevarication, he indicated where the 11 mines were hidden. The garage where the other one had been dismantled was raided and during a search a prohibited weapon, an old air cartridge revolver and 376 pellets for it, were found in a cooler bag under the stairs.
The judge said,"It is a matter of real concern that the transportation of such potentially dangerous items was so vulnerable to interference and by persons with only a spontaneous and casual interest as the three of you let alone others who might be more dangerous and grave."
But he added that he had subsequently been told there has been a review of security.
Yates, of Church Road, Birkenhead, was jailed for a total of seven years three months after admitting theft, possessing an explosive substance and damaging a mine.
Black, 23, of Woodchurch Road, BIrkenhead, who admitted theft and possessing an explosive substance, was jailed for five years seven months.
Ash, of Beckwith Street, Birkenhead, received seven and a half years and McKee, of Juliet Avenue, Bebington, got seven years four months. They had been convicted after a trial of handling the stolen mines, possessing explosive substance and a prohibited weapon.
Hellon, Hadfield Close, Sheffield, who was also convicted of handling and possessing explosives, was jailed for five years.
A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Smith, 29, of Boothwood Close, Edge Hill,Liverpool, who failed to attend for his sentence.