Men to stand trial for string of robberies in Hampshire

ROBBED The Nationwide in Park Parade, Leigh Park, was hit by raiders
ROBBED The Nationwide in Park Parade, Leigh Park, was hit by raiders

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THE trial of four men accused of carrying out dozens of burglaries and robberies may be moved out of Portsmouth because of security concerns.

Among the more than 40 crimes the quartet are accused of are robberies at the Nationwide bank in Park Parade, Leigh Park, Havant on November 25, 2011, and the Nationwide branch in West Street, Fareham on December 13, 2011.

During the robbery at Leigh Park, two masked men attacked a pair of security men as they restocked the cash machine.

And at the time of the Fareham raid, police described it as ‘a particularly nasty incident’ in which two security guards were forced to the floor.

In a case management hearing at Portsmouth Crown Court, Lee Fitzgerald, 37, from Perrycroft Road, Windsor in Berkshire and Andrew Smith, 27, from Broadwater Close, Staines in Surrey both entered not guilty pleas to charges of conspiring jointly with others to commit burglaries and conspiring with others to commit robberies.

Detectives from Hampshire’s Major Investigation Team have put together the investigation, dubbed Operation Quaker.

The 41-crime spree covered Hampshire, Wiltshire, Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Surrey in just six months from August 4, 2011 to February 8, 2012.

The four are accused of targeting shops, petrol stations, banks and homes.

Several cars were also taken.

Included in the allegations are the theft of number plates from a car parked in Princes Road, Petersfield overnight on September 15, 2011, and a similar offence in Tilmore Gardens, Petersfield on October 5, 2011.

James Newton-Price, prosecuting on behalf of the crown, said: ‘There are concerns expressed to me by the officers in the case about the security of the court if it were to go ahead in Portsmouth, but I won’t go into more details now.’

He added: ‘There may well be an application to transfer the venue.’

The trial is expected to last five weeks and is likely to start in September.

Co-accused, Stewart Last, 28, from Filmer Road, Windsor in Berkshire, and Richard Loveridge, 27, from Ditton Road in Datchet, Berkshire, have yet to enter any pleas.