A mum thought ‘That’s it, we’re going up’ as a gang of ATM thieves tried to blow up the cash machine under her six-year-old daughter’s bedroom.
Aimee Parsonson-Smith was woken by the sound of loud banging coming from the post office just below her flat at 4.15am on July 3, 2019, Oxford Crown Court heard.
She heard a man yell “forget it” before a car started. Looking out her living room window, she could see flames licking the sidewalk below and smell gasoline.
Prosecutor Barry McElduff told the court yesterday: ‘She panicked and thought the post office was on fire. Ms Parsonson-Smith recalled thinking ‘That’s it, we’re going up’. The woman woke her sleeping daughter and they fled to the safety of her car.
The ATM at Yateley Post Office in Hampshire was one of 18 ATMs James ‘Jimmy’ Sheen’s gang tried to blow up in a series of highly organized gas attacks in Buckinghamshire and several other counties between June and August 2019.
Only two of the attempts were successful, with Sheen, 37, trusted lieutenant David Riley, 26, and Frenny Green, 33, ‘gun for hire’, walking away with £100,000.
They struck gold at a co-op in Leavesden, Herts on June 13. As they fled with £73,810, the threesome could be heard saying “thank you, Co-op”.
At Oxford Crown Court today, six members of the gang were jailed for a total of 74 years.
On June 24, at One Stop in Hemel Hempstead, residents of flats above the store described hearing a “huge bang”. The owner said it looked like “a bomb explosion”. The back of the ATM had been blown off and the front door kicked in, with the thieves taking £27,970.
The court heard the gang would congregate at Sheen’s home in Warren Crescent, Headington, and later at the Manor Park caravan site near Kidlington before setting off on their raids. Forensically aware, they usually left their phones at home and wore homemade “ski mask” disguises.
Sheen’s partner appeared unhappy with his ventures, telling him with foresight in a post before the first ATM raid on June 9, 2019: “You’ll lose everything to get a few pounds.”
The gang’s relative lack of success using oxyacetylene gas saw the gang switch to trolling them in late 2019.
Their first “drag” took place in the early hours of December 18, 2019. Targeting the Newbury Co-op, they broke down the doors then wrapped a yellow strap around the cash machine inside, but abandoned efforts to remove when seen by witnesses.
On December 29, they used the same method to successfully get away with £34,000 and a Costcutter’s ATM in Ambrosden. The damaged remains of the cash machine were found in the Shotover estate.
Other ATMs were targeted by burglars in Didcot, Windsor, Charvill and Bletchingdon.
Shane Harris, 32, a member of a relatively new gang, was arrested in January at an M5 service station near Exeter with a stolen Audi A4 stuffed with burglar tools including hammers, jemmies and canisters gasoline.
He was replaced in April by Jimmy Loveridge, 30, and Paul Smith, 30, who had previous experience in high-value commercial burglaries.
On the night of May 13 and 14, 2020, Loveridge and Smith were with Sheen when they were caught stealing a Mitsubishi 4×4 from a driveway in Horndean, Hampshire.
The trio fled in a BMW, with Loveridge later telling an associate via a cellphone voice note recording that they “chased each other again last night ‘they’re not.’
On May 8, after traveling east from the Manor Park caravan site near Kidlington, Sheen, Loveridge and Riley used maces to make their way to the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket.
They were out within minutes, having stolen 10 trophies worth a total of £390,000 – including the £75,000 Ascot Gold Vase.
That month – May – the gang shifted their focus from stealing ATMs to taking farm machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Several pieces of plants stolen in Oxfordshire and destined for the Continent were seized at the port of Dover.
The gang’s activities came to a tragic end on June 10, 2020. On their way to rob an antiques center in Tetsworth, their stolen Mercedes crashed after Loveridge cut a corner blind. One of the car’s occupants, Rocky Broadway, was killed. Loveridge, Smith and fourth man Albert Johnson were seriously injured.
Yesterday the Crown outlined the crimes of Sheen’s gang during the first day of what was a two-day sentencing hearing.
Mr McElduff, for the prosecution, adopted the language of case law, describing the ATM raids as an “affront to civilized society”. The gang had caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage, while some of the targeted ATMs had not been replaced, leaving communities without easy access to cash.
The prosecutor said: “These defendants all played their part in an offense that showed complete disregard for the laws of the land and the safety of others.
“All the conspirators cared about was making as much money as possible through crime and saving their own skins.”
Sheen, of Warren Crescent, Headington, admitted conspiracy to cause explosions, conspiracy to burglary, burglary of Newmarket Horseracing Museum, theft of a Landcruiser in Aynho, attempted theft of a Mitsubishi in Horndean, use of a BMW robbery and conspiracy to steal machinery from the factory. He has previous convictions for dishonesty and in 2010 he was sentenced to 14 years for a drive-by shooting. He was imprisoned for 17 years and four months.
Riley, of Linkfield Lane, Redbridge, was convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions, conspiracy to burgle, burglary at Newmarket, theft and handling stolen factory machinery. He has nine previous convictions, including for burglary. He was imprisoned for 17 years and three months.
Green, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to cause explosions. His 23 prior convictions include several for burglary. He was imprisoned for 10 years and six months.
Harris, of Hughes Close, Charlbury, admitted conspiring to rob. He was briefly involved in the training plot. He was sentenced to three years and four months in prison.
Loveridge, of Chertsey Road, Chobham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to steal factory machinery, attempted robbery, use of criminal property and burglary of the Newmarket Museum. He has been locked up for 14 years and three months.
Smith, of Hearmon Close, Yateley, was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle, attempted theft and use of a stolen BMW. He admitted conspiring to steal machinery from the factory. He was sentenced to 11 years and four months.
Smith and Loveridge were both implicated in a gang responsible for a spate of commercial robberies in the mid-2010s, including a raid on the headquarters of Red Bull Racing F1 team near Milton Keynes when they went out with loads of trophies.