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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Art Theft/ Cash machine Bank raid gang put behind bars
By Matt Wilkinson

A gang has been jailed for a total of more than 30 years after a foiled bank robbery in a small Oxfordshire town.

The six men, normally involved in high value art thefts, crashed a stolen JCB into the Burford branch of Lloyds TSB in Sheep Street, in April last year, attempting to steal the cash machine, but fled empty-handed after the digger broke.

"Should have gone to Spec-savers" "Should have stuck to art theft"

Police arrested the six men - one from Eynsham and the rest from Kent - only 15 minutes after the botched raid.

This means that Police were watching Alan Johnson, waiting for him to go and collect his soldiers.

Alan "Jimmy" Johnson, 53, of Eynsham, was the last of the gang to be sentenced yesterday when he was jailed for four-and-a-half years.

continued... Alan Jimmy Johnson could not recover the really high value stolen artworks his gang sold on to criminal art dealers. These Mr Big's said they want to be paid a profit before they release high value stolen artworks.

Investigating officer DS Howard Berry, of Witney CID, said: "These people are organised criminals prepared to travel long distances to commit serious crime in isolated rural locations, if not high value art thefts from Stately homes, then they will turn to stealuing cash ATM's from the walls of banks.

"On that night, the residents of Burford woke up to a frightening experience seeing a gang of men in balaclavas attacking a bank with a stolen JCB in a well-planned attempt to extract a cash machine.

"This was a serious offence and the sentences from court reflect our view."

Johnson, whose address was given as a traveller camp on the A4095 at Eynsham, and four other members of the gang all changed their pleas and admitted conspiracy to steal as a trial was about to begin last Monday.

Sentencing Johnson yesterday, Judge Anthony Hall said the gang waited until the last minute before they realised the game was up.

He said: "They were going down like nine-pins when other defendants were pleading guilty at the door of the court.

"There was no evidence to distinguish between their roles.

"If you (Johnson) had entered a plea of guilty earlier and not at the door of the court I would have given you a greater credit."

Johnson called out to the judge from behind the glass screen in the dock as he was being sent down.

Before he was led away, he said: "If I'd been given the opportunity to plea I would have done that."

Alan Jimmy Johnson was led to believe that if he could facilitate the return of stolen high value artworks he would be in line for a reduced sentence, he failed to secure any significant pieces, so he gets Four and a Half years.

Nicolas Gerasimidis, defending, told the court Johnson was not a major player in organising the raid. Yeah right!!! One minute Alan Jimmy Johnson is the self styled Art crime godfather, next he is just and innocent man collecting friends. If Mr Johnson is to create a lying/bollocks story, at least make it plausable.

He was caught in a layby near Eynsham, meeting co-defendants after driving four of the robbers away from the raid in his Jeep Cherokee.

Mr Gerasimidis said: "His role was effectively offering help to persons that he knew. He wasn't involved in stealing any of the vehicles used."

The rest of the gang all came from Tunbridge Wells in Kent and were jailed on Friday.

George Smith, 38, and Matthew Cook, 30, were jailed for four-and-a-half years each after admitting conspiracy to steal, on the morning of their trial.

Dominic Edwards, 28, received four years after admitting his involvement a week before the trial was to begin.

Steven Thornton, 32, who also entered a guilty plea at the start of the trial, was jailed for seven years and eight months on two counts of conspiracy to steal, and driving offences.

Stephen Boyd was sentenced to five years after he was found guilty of conspiracy to steal on Thursday following a four-day trial at Oxford Crown Court.

8:58am Tuesday 24th October 2006

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