Armed robbers were ‘violent and ruthless’ in attacks on Havant and Fareham building societies

RAID 'The scene at the Nationwide Building society in West Street Fareham after the robbery. ''Picture: Steve Reid
RAID 'The scene at the Nationwide Building society in West Street Fareham after the robbery. ''Picture: Steve Reid

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A ‘violent and ruthless’ gang stole more than £500,000 of cash, cars and goods in a string of burglaries and armed robberies, a court heard.

Andrew Smith, 27, Richard Loveridge, 28, and Stuart Last, 29, are alleged to have stolen £240,000 in three robberies - two at building societies in Havant and Fareham and one at a bank in Farmborough.

Winchester Crown Court heard the men threatened security staff delivering cash to the premises with weapons including a sledgehammer and a crowbar.

A 12-strong jury was told they stole £105,000 in the Fareham robbery, £50,000 in the Havant robbery and £85,000 during the robbery in Farnborough.

James Newton-Price, prosecuting, said: ‘They waited on three occasions until the cash machines were being filled by the security staff and then they broke into the premises and threatened the security staff with crowbars and sledgehammers.

‘They used tools, high powered metal cutters.’

Mr Newton-Price added: ‘That wasn’t enough for them.’

The court heard the gang struck at Nationwide in Park Parade, Havant, while two G4S security guards were re-stocking the cash machine.

Two men entered the branch and cut away bars on the cash machine using disc cutters before removing about £50,000.

One raider used a sledgehammer to smash the door.

Mr Newton-Price said: ‘They shouted to the guards ‘get down, give it to me.’ One of them even threatened one of the guards, saying ‘I’ll f*****g shoot you.’

The pair then left and got into a waiting car which fled the scene shortly after 10:30pm on November 25 2011.

Loveridge, Smith and Last are alleged to have stolen £70,000 of cash and stock from shops in the Basingstoke and Reading areas and a further £40,000 of stock in a series of burglaries of smaller shops.

The three men are also accused of stealing high performance cars worth £200,000 as well as car number plates which were used in some of the burglaries and robberies.

The crimes are alleged to have taken place across Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Surrey between August 4 2011 and January 20 2012.

The court heard that a fourth man, Lee Fitzgerald, 38, acted as a ‘facilitator’ by hiring a lock-up garage at a farm near Windsor in Berkshire which the gang used as a ‘base camp’ for their conspiracy.

The owner of the farm is not believed to have been involved in the crimes in any way.

Mr Newton-Price said the gang was ‘forensically aware,’ disguising themselves in balaclavas and dark clothing to avoid detection.

However he said sometimes they were ‘careless’ and used their mobile phones which helped police to track their route back to ‘base camp.’

The court heard the men also used their mobile phones at the lock-up garage.

Mr Newton-Price added: ‘We say this gang was violent and they were ruthless in their professional planning and their efforts to avoid capture.

‘Almost all of these robberies were characterised by violent intimidation of security guards or the shop staff.’

Smith, of Montrose Avenue, Slough, Last, of Filmer Road, Windsor, Loveridge, of Ditton Road, Slough, and Fitzgerald, of Perry Croft, Windsor, each deny one count of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery.

(Proceeding).