Gang ‘threatened security guards with sledgehammer before stealing £105,000’

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 GANG stole £105,000 after smashing their way into a building society with a sledgehammer and threatening security guards, a court heard.

Andrew Smith, Richard Loveridge and Stuart Last are accused of targeting Nationwide in West Street, Fareham, during a string of burglaries and robberies that netted them £550,000.

Winchester Crown Court heard G4S security guards had locked themselves in the branch and were putting money into a cash machine when the gang struck.

Prosecutor James Newton-Price said: ‘The door was smashed open, the man with the sledgehammer stood in the doorway.

‘He raised the sledgehammer above his head in a threatening posture.’

A 12-strong jury heard both men were wearing balaclavas and one shouted ‘don’t press any buttons’.

Mr Newton-Price said: ‘The security guards could hear or see a grinder or a disc cutter. They could smell the smoke.’

He added: ‘They cut with their cutter the bars off the back of the cash machine and they took the cash boxes.’

The two men fled in a waiting stolen black BMW being driven by a third man shortly after 11.30pm on December 13 2011.

The men are also alleged to have stolen £50,000 from Nationwide in Park Parade, Havant, on November 25 2011 and £85,000 from Santander in Farnborough on January 9 2012.

On each occasion a sledgehammer and a disc cutter were used and security staff re-stocking cash machines were threatened.

Loveridge, Smith and Last are also accused of stealing £310,000 of high-performance cars, cash and stock and number plates.

The crimes took place across Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Surrey between August 4 2011 and January 20 2012.

A fourth man, Lee Fitzgerald, 38, is alleged to have 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.

A disc cutter and a sledgehammer identical to those used in the robberies in Fareham, Havant and Farnborough were found by police during a search of the lock-up on January 20 2012.

Smith, 27, of Montrose Avenue, Slough, Last, 29, of Filmer Road, Windsor, Loveridge, 28, of Ditton Road, Slough, and Fitzgerald, 38, of Perrycroft, Windsor, each deny one count of conspiracy to commit burglary and one count of conspiracy to commit robbery.