Gang face prison after being found guilty of Hampshire armed robberies

The Nationwide Building society in West Street, Fareham, after the raid
The Nationwide Building society in West Street, Fareham, after the raid
Julie Corben

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A ‘DANGEROUS’ gang face lengthy jail sentences after being convicted of a string of robberies.

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.

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.

Det Insp Ross Toms who led the Operation Quaker investigation that snared the robbers said: ‘We have taken some very dangerous individuals off the street.’

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

Smith, Loveridge and Last also stole more than £79,500 of cigarettes, cash and goods in total from a One Stop in Finchampstead, Carphone Warehouse stores in Reading and Earley, Berkshire, and Tesco Express in Lytchpitt, Basingstoke.

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.

Describing Loveridge, Smith and Last, Det Insp Toms said: ‘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.’

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.

FACTS AND FIGURES

About 1,200 statements were taken as part of Operation Quaker.

There were 1,900 exhibits during the case.

About 100 suspect interviews were conducted.

Hundreds of hours of CCTV were viewed.

About 400 officers were involved in the investigation across Hampshire, Surrey, Thames Valley, Wiltshire, Sussex and the National Crime Agency (previously the Serious Organised Crime Agency).