In February 2015, police in the North East Division investigated a raid on a cash machine. A common enough crime, but this single incident turned out to be the catalyst for an eighteen month investigation into what turned out to be a series of high value heists straight from the pages of a Hollywood screenplay.
During the next year and a half, the perpetrators used high performance vehicles in raids on ATMs across the UK, including Aberdeen, Perth and Carnoustie, blowing up some ATMs with gas cylinders, dragging other cash machines straight out of walls, and breaking into them with power tools. In total, the felons stole over half a million pounds in cash.
Because of the nature of a robbery in August 2015, officers immediately sought support from Police Scotland’s Organised Crime and Counter Terrorism Unit (OCCTU) which in turn utilized partnerships with other national resources across the UK, including the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (TITAN).
Three days after the initial report, a cash point at the Co-op in Kingswells, Aberdeenshire was raided overnight. The gang got away with £16,000.
Det Supt Alex Dowall recalls, “In some ways it was actually a stroke of luck as it gave us a fresh crime to investigate and more current evidential opportunities. There was a specific MO involving the use of gas cylinders and we linked in with other forces with experience of this crime. We identified the suspects, and started a covert investigation tracking the group as they travelled around the UK, working in collaboration with the National Crime Agency and TITAN including North East and West OCCTU teams.
"Working with these partner agencies we established links to crimes across England, including one in Swindon which featured a car that had been stolen in Aberdeen and which was linked to this particular group.”
Two weeks later, a Scania lorry with a stolen trailer unit was discovered parked in Wigan and secured as a crime scene by Greater Manchester Police. It had been converted with ramps to hide a stolen Audi inside. Enquiries then obtained CCTV footage which picked up a rendezvous between a lorry and high-performance car just hours before the Kingswells raid. Footage was also later obtained from roads policing vehicles. Though this would have been enough to make immediate arrests, the investigating officers decided on playing the long game and to go after the big fish.
By this time we were able to pull together evidence from those crimes,” Det Supt Dowall said. “We had a sufficiency of evidence to charge some group members, but we wanted to wait and continue our investigations until we had evidence against the main organisers.”
It was an attack on a cash machine at the Co-op in Carnoustie, Angus in February 2016 that proved to be the gang’s final raid. In the build up to that week, the suspects had been under the watchful eye of surveillance teams as they travelled through Scotland.
“We were aware the group was using specific vehicles and that they had stolen vehicles that week,” recalls Det Supt Dowall , “but we didn’t know where or when they would carry out an attack."
When the gang struck at the Carnoustie Co-op in the early hours, all units were sent to that address, but the gang had already fled. Their escape was to be short lived, however. After a great response from the public who phoned-in descriptions of main perpetrator’s car which had been seen driving fast in the area, an off duty officer was heading home after a nightshift and stopped at a branch of McDonalds. The officer recognised the car from the description and phoned it in, and in short time, Police Scotland swooped on the car park as the gang returned to their car after their breakfast.
“All our specialist resources were involved at this stage,” said Det Supt Dowall. “Armed police acted with such professionalism and used pre-planned tactics to safely arrest the group – and it worked. While the group’s car was stationary in the car park, they burst the tyres using tyre deflation devices. We found the cash from the ATM robbery floating around the foot wells of their car, and they had loose twenties stuffed in their pockets.”
In a day of action a month later, following co-ordination between Police Scotland and TITAN, arrests were made at eight addresses in Liverpool, and the rest of the gang were taken into custody.
“This was a complex and challenging investigation and a real team effort with almost every element of Police Scotland was involved,” Det Supt Dowall said. “It involved as many as a hundred police officers and police staff at any one time within Police Scotland, including SCD, North East Division and Tayside Division. It also utilised OSD including Authorised Firearms Officers, SPA, Air Support, and Operational Support Units.
“The effort and professionalism of the police officers and staff who worked extended hours to meet the demands of this investigation was exceptional, and I am in no doubt that our communities are streets are now safer places to live and work.”
The seven men were sentenced to a total of 92 years imprisonment on Thursday 20th April 2017 at Liverpool Crown Court, and received the following individual sentences:
- Andrew White (28), sentenced to 19 years imprisonment with a further two years on licence
- Anthony White (26), sentenced to 16 years imprisonment
- Nanu Miah (28), sentenced to life imprisonment and will only be eligible to apply for parole after a minimum of nine years
- Anthony Conroy (29), sentenced to 12 years imprisonment
- Carl Cavanagh (33), sentenced to 11 years imprisonment
- Michael Galea (41), sentenced to 15 years imprisonment
- Gary Carey (40), sentenced to 10 years imprisonment to commence at the completion of his current sentence.