Failed Isleham ram raid triggered police response that caught ram raiders 23 miles away - but as they go to jail £250,000 haul from other raids still missing

PUBLISHED: 14:38 08 November 2018 | UPDATED: 14:38 08 November 2018

Tony Smith (left) from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs include Isleham and Feltwell which the raiders targeted. Picture: BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

Tony Smith (left) from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs include Isleham and Feltwell which the raiders targeted. Picture: BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

Archant

Two of the three ram raiders caught by a regional crime squad after they fled empty handed from an east Cambridgeshire Co-op are behind bars having admitted eight raids across seven counties.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Gamlingay
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE 
Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Gamlingay BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

One was jailed for six years, another sent to a youth offenders centre for five years whilst a third, aged 17, will be sentenced later this month.

Their total haul is estimated at £250,000 but police revealed in court at Peterborough that none of the cash has been recovered.

Their downfall came after an unsuccessful raid on the Co-op in Mill Street, Isleham, at around 4.35am on Tuesday April 17.

Officers from the Eastern Regional Special Operations Unit (ERSOU) deployed a helicopter to trace the offenders, who fled in a dark Audi estate, and they arrested all three men 23 miles away at Needingworth in Huntingdonshire.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Long Bennington
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Long Bennington BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

Tony Smith, 19, of Schole Road, Willingham, Cambridgeshire, and Charlie Oakley, 26, of George Street, Shefford, Bedfordshire, were sentenced at Peterborough Crown Court on Wednesday.

Oakley received a six year prison sentence after admitting to a number of the ram raids, while Smith was handed a five year sentence in a youth offenders for his part in the series.

The duo pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle in relation to a number of ram raids to steal cash machines across the region.

A 17-year-old from Market Harborough has also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to burgle charge in relation to the same series of ram raids and will be sentenced later on this month.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Feltwell
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Feltwell BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

The day before the Isleham raid the same gang had thrown bricks at a store worker’s windows in Feltwell after they made off with a cash machine from the One Stop Shop and Post office in the High Street.

Sam Fernando was sleeping above the store when it was targeted at 3am on Monday April 16.

He said he heard the chain saw as the gang - who he said were wearing masks and spray suits - force their way into the building.

In an attempt to try and stop the raiders, Mr Fernando and another person who was staying above the shop shouted at them out the window.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Feltwell
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Feltwell BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

“We were shouting out the window and they threw a brick at the window,” he said. “They did not care about us shouting. One guy threw the brick and the other guys did the job.”

The brick left a large hole in the window.

He added: “I am in a bit of shock. You don’t expect anything like this. You are helpless because you cannot go down the stairs and do anything.”

Mr Fernando said he saw the brazen thieves pull the cash machine from inside the shop using a white Audi.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. 
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

The ATM was loaded onto the back of a small black vehicle.

A resident said the Audi was then set on fire by the gang in the middle of the road.

“It was frightening,” she said. “It was horrible and I was terrified. I could hear the car popping and the heat coming from it was unbelievable. We were worried the car was going to explode.”

One resident who lives on the street and did not wish to be named, said: “I heard everything. There were voices and a loud bang.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Gamlingay
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Gamlingay BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

“I was really worried for my friend as it was so near to her.

“I saw the flames and came out of the house into the street, I shouted to people if the fire service was called and they said yes and the police were there.”

The One Stop had only been refurbished a couple of years ago and the staff are popular among many of the villagers.

As part of the audacious crime spree in March and April 2018, the ram raiders also stole a number of vehicles such as Land Rovers and Audis, which were used to ram into the stores and as get-away cars.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Feltwell
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Feltwell BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

In total there were eight ram raids across seven different counties, and a total of 24 offences.

Each ATM contained thousands of pounds of cash and the raids caused more than £250,000 of damage in total to the businesses. None of the cash has been recovered.

Detective Inspector Trevor Davidson of ERSOU, said: “This ruthless cross-border crime blitz saw hundreds of thousands of pounds being stolen, not to mention the significant amount of damage caused to the businesses affected, and the multiple vehicles stolen from innocent people across the region.

“This was an incredibly complex investigation due to the large number and geographical span of the offences, but thanks to the hard work and dedication of our officers, and the close working with forces in seven different counties, we have been able to bring these criminals to justice.

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Isleham
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Isleham BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

“ERSOU is committed to tackling serious and organised criminals and we’re pleased to have been able to put these men behind bars, preventing any future offending from them, and hopefully sending a warning to others that you will not get away with this type of offending in the eastern region.”

A 17-year-old from Market Harborough has also pleaded guilty to a conspiracy to burgle charge in relation to the same series of ram raids and will be sentenced later on this month.

The ram raid series

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids.Isleham
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids.Isleham BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

Saturday 3 March – Co-Op, Church Street, Gamlingay, Cambridgeshire

A Land Rover was used to ram the store and remove the ATM machine containing a significant amount of money.

Tuesday 20 March – Co-Op, Main Road, Long Bennington, Lincolnshire

Tony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Biggleswade
BEDFORDSHIRE POLICETony Smith, from Willingham, and Charlie Oakley from Shefford, have been sentenced after being convicted of eight ram raids. The photographs are of the aftermath of the raids. Biggleswade BEDFORDSHIRE POLICE

A stolen Daihatsu 4x4 is used to steal an ATM containing thousands of pounds.

Monday 2 April – Aldi, Bonds Lane, Biggleswade, Bedfordshire

A stolen Land Rover and an Audi were used in a bid to steal the ATM, on this occasion the attempt was unsuccessful.

Monday 2 April – The Guineas Shopping Centre, Newmarket

An Audi and a stolen Land Rover were used to steal an ATM containing thousands of pounds.

Wednesday 4 April – Premier Shop, Irthlingborough Road, Finedon, Northamptonshire

Offenders used a Land Rover to pull the shutters off the store before stealing an ATM containing a substantial amount of cash.

Friday 6 April – Co-Op, High Street, Fulbourn, Cambridgeshire

A number of offenders wearing balaclavas and boiler suits arrive in a stolen Land Rover and steal a cash machine.

Monday 16 April, One Stop, Feltwell, Thetford, Norfolk

Offenders arrive at the store using two stolen Audis and use a disc cutter to gain entry to the shop, before stealing an ATM containing thousands of pounds.

Tuesday 17 April – Co-Op, West Street, Isleham, Cambridgeshire

Offenders in the process of stealing an ATM are disturbed by police and fee from the scene. Lee, Oakley and Smith are subsequently arrested.

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