CCTV footage shows armed robbers raiding the Nationwide Building Society in Fareham and Leigh Park

The Nationwide armed robbers strike
The Nationwide armed robbers strike

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This is the dramatic moment two armed thugs wielding a sledgehammer smashed their way into a building society before escaping with thousands of pounds.

But now the robbers are facing time in jail after being found guilty of a spate of violent raids.

Hampshire Police relased CCTV footage of the raid on the Nationwide Building Society in Fareham and also made public dramatic images captured during the robbery at the society’s premises in Leigh Park.

Today Det Insp Ross Toms, from Hampshire’s Major Investigation Team, who led the investigation, said: ‘We’ve taken some very dangerous individuals off the street.’

The ‘ruthless, organised and sophisticated’ gang has been convicted of a string of violent robberies across the south, in one of which a security guard was told he would be shot.

Andrew Smith, 27, Richard Loveridge, 28, and Stewart Last, 29, stole £240,000 in robberies at Nationwide in Leigh Park, Nationwide in Fareham and a Santander branch in Farnborough.

On each occasion G4S security staff delivering cash to the premises were threatened with a sledgehammer.

They used disc cutters to cut away bars on cash machines and stole cash boxes.

In the Farnborough robbery, a security guard was hit in the chest with a sledgehammer, the court heard.

The men fled with £50,000 in the Leigh Park robbery on November 25 2011, £105,000 in the Fareham robbery on December 13 2011, and £85,000 in the Farnborough robbery on January 9 2012.

Smith, Loveridge and Last also stole almost £29,000 of mobile phones, games consoles and from Carphone Warehouse in Earley, Berkshire, £9,020 in cigarettes and cash from a Tesco Express in Lytchpitt, Basingstoke, and £33,767 from Carphone Warehouse in Reading.

They fled a One Stop in Finchampstead, Berkshire, with £7,745.

The robberies took place between October 2011 and January 2012.

Loveridge and Last also burgled shops and homes and stole high-performance cars and number plates between August 2011 and January 2012.

A 12-strong jury found Smith, Loveridge and Last guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery following a trial at Winchester Crown Court.

Loveridge and Last were also convicted of conspiracy to commit burglary while Smith was cleared of the charge.

A fourth man, Lee Fitzgerald, 38, of Perrycroft, Windsor, was found not guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to commit burglary.

Det Insp Ross Toms, from Hampshire’s Major Investigation Team, led the Operation Quaker investigation that snared the robbers.

He said: ‘These were ruthless, organised and sophisticated criminals who committed a number of serious offences across the south of England.’

He added: ‘They were prolific in their nature, ruthless in the way they carried out the acts, often using violence and weapons, and they were very aware of police procedures.

‘We have taken some very dangerous individuals off the street.’

Smith, of Montrose Avenue, Datchet, Last, of Filmer Road, Windsor, and Loveridge, of Ditton Road, Slough, were remanded in custody.

They are due to be sentenced on November 20.