Three men have been jailed for more than 30 years for their part in a series of attacks on cash machines.
Charlie Smith, Alfie Adams and John Doran even used gas canisters on some occasions to blow open the ATMs, before using power tools to gain access to the stores to get to the cash – often making off with thousands of pounds.
All three admitted eight counts of burglary, three counts of unlawfully and maliciously causing an explosion of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious damage to property, and one count of theft.
One of the charges related to a burglary at the Co-Op in Bignal Court, Kettering, on November 21 last year.
Other offences, including burglaries at Raunds’ Spar (October 4) and Oundle’s Co-Op (October 24), were taken into consideration.
Detective Chief Inspector Martin Smalley led the investigation.
He said: “These three men caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to stores across the region, taking a very blasé attitude to their own, and the public’s, safety.
“The volatile gas mixtures they used to cause the explosions could have had devastating consequences.
“These crimes were very visible in the community, and the impact felt by residents and business owners was significant.
“The reliance on these ATMs by such small rural communities was great, but the fear and discord caused by these attacks in what was often the heart of their village was much greater.
“At the time of these incidents there was some criticism — an opinion that little action was being taken by the police — but this wasn’t the case.
“In the background a number of teams using a variety of tactics were working tirelessly to identify and arrest those responsible.
“From those responding to the live incidents, through to scene preservation and investigation, it’s been a massive undertaking both by the force with vital support from the East Midlands Special Operations Unit.
“It’s work we often don’t like to talk about, but rest assured this burglary series was a top priority.
“With the culprits now in prison for a very long time, we hope a sense safety and security has been returned to our communities.”
Leicester Crown Court heard the gang blew up cash machines in Cosby and Hinckley in Leicestershire and Burwell in Cambridgeshire.
They were also charged with burglaries in Chesterton, Lutterworth, Tring, Monmouth and Nuneaton.
Other offences taken into consideration were burglaries in Coventry, Lutterworth, Kibworth, Hunstanton, Princes Risborough, Crick, Countesthorpe, Oakham, Weedon, Hillmorton, Lyndey and Huntley.
Smith, 31, of Mere Lane in Bitteswell, Lutterworth, was jailed for 10 years and seven months.
Adams, 36, of Bickershaw Lane in Wigan, was jailed for 12 years.
And Doran, 20, of Gelderd Road in Gildersome, Leeds was jailed for eight years and seven months.
He was also given an additional five-month sentence for breaching a suspended sentence.