Manchester Evening News

Off on yet another holiday funded by ATM raids

- By NEAL KEELING

Armed robbers’ £160k crime haul

SWAGGERING through Manchester Airport in sunglasses, wearing a fashion tracksuit and man-bag, Ben Thompson is en route to another holiday.

He is pictured in all black at the airport with Wesley Shepherd, who is sporting a palm tree design on his yellow T-shirt. Once again the duo were heading for sun and sea.

The pair were partners in crime and their trips to Malaga, Mexico and Egypt were financed by blowing up cash machines and terrorisin­g staff and customers in the process. In four attacks they bagged £160,000. The spree began in April last year when they struck twice and continued until July.

But they were snared after Thompson’s baseball cap was blown off his head in one of the attacks leaving behind vital evidence behind.

Driving stolen cars, the men would enter the premises armed and threaten the staff, before placing an explosive device into the machine, in an attempt to gain access to cash. They attacked four commercial premises, three in Greater Manchester, and a final one in Staffordsh­ire. They caused tens of thousands of pounds worth of damage to the businesses.

After stealing the cash, the men were spotted passing through Manchester Airport, jetting off to Malaga, Egypt, and Mexico. But their short-lived high life soon came to an end on Tuesday, September 19, when police caught up with them.

After receiving intelligen­ce, police set up a covert surveillan­ce operation. They saw the men in a car together in Sale, and armed police moved in to arrest them. As Shepherd and Thompson ditched the car and ran to evade police, they discarded a rucksack. When recovered, inside were found high visibility vests, gloves, a screwdrive­r, tape, and a smoke flare.

The men were both arrested shortly after, Thompson on the forecourt of a supermarke­t in Hulme, and Shepherd at his mother’s house in Northenden. This week, Ben Thompson, of Kentworthy Lane, Wythenshaw­e and Wesley Shepherd, of St Mary’s Road, Sale were jailed for 16 years and 14 years eight months respective­ly after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and cause explosions likely to endanger property and life, at an earlier hearing.

Detective Sergeant Rich McCorry from GMP Serious Organised Crime Group said: “These men had no regard for the safety of the public in their endeavour to make some

fast cash. This type of behaviour is intolerabl­e and the lasting impact that such an unprovoked attack can have on a victim is huge.

“Following a diligent investigat­ion with specialist colleagues from across Greater Manchester and Staffordsh­ire Police, we were able to link the crimes and now two dangerous, reckless men are behind bars for a long time.”

The pair struck at supermarke­ts in Irlam Road, Flixton on April 5 last year; at Grosvenor Street, Rochdale on April 24; Lees Street, Gorton, on May 16; and in Keelings Road, Northwood, Stokeon-Trent on July 27.

Explaining how the pair were caught Detective Inspector Rick Castley, said: “They were a really organised team. They were using stolen cars on false plates and carried out a degree of reconnaiss­ance. We reviewed the crimes when we get a series like this – the forensics, all intelligen­ce, and the crime scenes.

“Then we got another attack in Stoke. They placed an explosive device within

the machine. The fuse was obviously too short and the machine blew up with them at the side of it.”

Ben Thompson took most of the blast. “From that explosion we got some forensic evidence – his baseball cap came off. There was some DNA within the cap, but not enough to charge him. But it was an indication. From that we did an investigat­ion and we discover that straight after that job he flies out of the country with a big pair of sunglasses on.

“He came back to the country and that is when we started a pro-active investigat­ion. They were under surveillan­ce and in a stolen car on false plates were saw them travel over to Sale. They ran off discarding rucksacks which were identical to ones carried by offenders in previous attacks and in them were industrial fireworks which we think they had been using.

“They are organised, high end armed robbers. They scare and frighten people so they acquiesce to what they want to do.”

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 ?? ?? Ben Thompson (front) and Wesley Shepherd on CCTV at Manchester Airport
Ben Thompson (front) and Wesley Shepherd on CCTV at Manchester Airport
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 ?? ?? Ben Thompson (left) and Wesley Shepherd were both jailed this week
Ben Thompson (left) and Wesley Shepherd were both jailed this week

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