Accused denies part in £25K bank robbery plot

Daily Echo: The scene outside the HSBC in Chandler's Ford following the raid The scene outside the HSBC in Chandler's Ford following the raid

A MAN accused of being a member of a gang that robbed £25,000 from a Hampshire bank has denied being part of the plot.

Caston Francis, 52, said he had nothing to do with a group that targeted banks across the south of England, including a HSBC branch in Chandler’s Ford.

During the robbery on November 24, 2011, three men in balaclavas attacked security guards delivering cash.

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

Jurors at Winchester Crown Court heard how 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.

They were told how 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.

The court has heard how three co-accused have already plea-ded guilty and are waiting to be sentenced. They were Leroy Hall, Leon McKenzie and Clifford Griffiths.

But unemployed Francis, giving evidence, denied being part of any robberies that were carried out by the London-based gang.

The court has heard how as well as robbing security guards in Chandler’s Ford, the gang targeted branches in Reading, Bath and Gloucester.

But Francis said he only knew Hall, which jurors heard was the gang “general”, from his youth and as a source of cannabis.

He said he would sometimes call and visit McKenzie to buy the drug.

He also claims he was recuperating from chemotherapy sessions during the period the reconnaissance and the robbery was carried out.

“I was not involved with this conspiracy,” he said. “I would not be doing that.”

Francis also said his car had been borrowed behind his back and that he had a telephone that he only kept in his car.

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

The trial continues.

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