Gang ‘robbed guards taking cash to banks’

Daily Echo: Chandler's Ford precinct Chandler's Ford precinct

A CRIMINAL gang robbed guards delivering cash to a string of banks, including one in Chandler’s Ford, a court heard.

Three men in balaclavas attacked security guards outside HSBC bank in Chandler’s Ford on November 24, 2011, and escaped with £25,000 in cash.

The empty stolen cash box was later found in an abandoned getaway car, a silver Volvo, in a nearby street.

Jackelyn Smith, 36, of Mitcham, Surrey, and Caston Francis, 52, of Crystal Palace, London, both deny a charge of conspiracy to rob between May 2011 and April 2012.

Mark Aldred, prosecuting, said: “This case is about robbery or, more precisely, a series of robberies in which cash in transit guards were confronted by masked men.”

The jury was told that three co-accused had already pleaded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced. They were Leroy Hall, Leon McKenzie and Clifford Griffiths.

Mr Aldred said that Smith and Francis were “party to an agreement to rob guards delivering cash”. He described Hall as “the general” of the criminal gang.

Winchester Crown Court heard that the London-based gang targeted banks in Chandler’s Ford, Reading, Bath and Gloucester.

The haul included £125,000 from Gloucester.

The court heard that Hall and McKenzie were released from jail in March 2011 for their part in a series of raids on the same banks between 2005 and 2007, including HSBC in Chandler’s Ford.

Mr Aldred said that the current gang of robbers followed the same “blueprint”, even abandoning getaway cars in the same roads, but different “foot soldiers” were involved.

The jury heard that automatic number plate recognition and mobile phone records showed that Francis was an active part of the criminal gang, although not involved in all of the robberies. His car was caught on CCTV travelling in convoy with one of the getaway cars on reconnaissance days before robberies and heading down the M3 to Chandler’s Ford on the day of the robbery.

Smith was arrested with Hall, McKenzie and Griffiths when police, who were following the gang, swooped before a raid in Gloucester.

The court heard that Smith was driving a car parked around the corner from the bank with three empty seats.

The jury heard that Francis answered “no comment” in police interviews, while Smith claimed to know nothing about the attempted robbery, claiming that she had been “kept in the dark”.

The trial continues.

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