A JUDGE has jailed six men for their part in a series of raids on lorries in which more than £2m worth of goods ranging from lawn mowers to expensive Barbour jackets were stolen.
Thieves from two different West Yorkshire gangs targeted curtain-side vehicles, usually after their drivers had parked up to rest, then took their stock to a distribution point, often a yard at South Milford, near Selby.
The thefts were highly organised along major road networks throughout England and most of the drivers were undisturbed, waking to find the side of their vehicles slashed or the lock removed.
But in one case, Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday, (Sept 28) the driver of a vehicle carrying whisky destined for Paris was subjected to a terrifying ordeal when he was tied up and robbed when he took a break in a car park on the A1 at Darrington.
Roman Studniarz was grabbed round the neck and dragged to the back of his vehicle where he was tied up and forced to lie in a ditch by three men wearing balaclavas. He was subsequently driven in a van to a remote location near Rochdale where he was left, with cuts and bruises.
Simon Kealey, prosecuting, said in addition to losing £2,000 cash and personal belongings, 830 cases of whisky valued at £136,000 was taken from his load before it was found burnt out near Wakefield.
In November 2010 police searched the yard at South Milford, the premises of Adam Dixon, an isolated property accessed via a track and handy for the A1, where they found two stolen commercial vehicles and over £350,000 of stolen goods in secure containers.
That included 53 steam cleaners stolen en route from Peterborough, a lawnmower from 159 stolen from a lorry parked near Retford and 8,500 items of Next clothing worth over £71,000 stolen from a lorry while parked on a layby near South Elmsall.
The second group of thieves including Jason Reynolds operated independently using premises on occasions in Keighley but they had receivers in common. His targets included £55,000 of Jagermeister liqueur taken from a parked lorry near Grantham.
Jailing the six for a total of 26 years Judge James Spencer QC said the case involved serious criminal activity.
“It was carried out by ruthless men upon vulnerable victims. It was planned and premeditated, it was persistent and it was done for immense profit,” he said.
Reynolds, of Ferrybridge Road, Redhill, Castleford, was jailed for five years after he admitted conspiracy to rob and theft. James Hodges, 23, of Broom Lawn, Belle Isle, Leeds, was jailed for eight years after admitting the robbery of Mr Studniarz.
Craig Barraclough, 44, of Nettleton Court, Leeds, who was found guilty of conspiracy to handle stolen goods, was jailed for four years.
Adam Dixon, 44 and David Kirk, 49, of Ramshead Approach, Leeds, were each jailed for three years after they were also convicted by a jury of conspiracy to handle stolen goods. Kyle Bedford, 26, of Winrose Hill, Belle Isle, Leeds, was sentenced to three years after admitting assisting an offender by driving Hodges back from Rochdale.