South East Wales

Burglars who blew up cash machines and stole £80,000 are jailed

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Media captionCCTV images at one of the cash machines show the strength of the explosion

Two men who blew up cash machines at two south Wales banks, stealing more than £80,000, have been jailed.

Russell Luke Bennett, 21 and Benjamin Brian Barrett, 30, from Bristol, pleaded guilty to conspiring to cause an explosion likely to endanger life and burglary at Cardiff Crown Court.

They caused explosions at two Barclays Bank cash machines - one in Treforest, Pontypridd, and another in Bridgend.

Barrett was jailed for eight-and-a-half years and Bennett seven-and-a-half.

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption Benjamin Brian Barrett (left) and Russell Luke Bennett targeted banks in south Wales

Police called the crimes "astounding" and said they were the first of their kind in Wales.

The pair were part of a gang caught on CCTV cameras as they pumped a cash machine with gas and then hid around the corner before triggering an explosion.

The first blast at Barclays Bank in Treforest industrial estate was so powerful that the safe door, which would take around four average sized men to lift, was blown across the foyer.

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption The explosion at the bank in Treforest Industrial Estate caused £100,000 of damage

The external glass window was blown outwards and all the doors throughout the bank - even those along the corridors leading away from the blast - were blown off their hinges.

Police were alerted to the explosion at about midnight on Sunday, 25 October last year by a security guard.

Officers found £45,000 had been stolen and £100,000 worth of damage had been caused.

On 2 November, the Barclays Bank cash machine in Bridgend industrial estate was targeted, with the thieves making off with about £36,000.

The men were eventually caught after DNA was found on a gas cylinder at the scene of the Bridgend raid.

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image caption The blast was so powerful that doors were blown off their hinges

When police went to arrest Barrett at his home in the Bishopsworth area of Bristol they found signs of his new-found wealth, including newly purchased furniture and carpets and an invoice for a new motorbike.

Equipment such as gas hoses which fitted cylinders recovered from the scene were found in the shed at the property.

Barrett pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life and two counts of burglary.

Bennett, from Totterdown in Bristol, admitted one count of conspiracy to cause an explosion likely to endanger life and one count of burglary.

Det Insp Dan Michel, the senior investigating officer on the case, said the pair's "recklessness and pure gall" was "astounding".

The court heard there have been more than 100 cases of cash machines being blown up by criminals since the first example was recorded in the UK two years ago.

Image copyright South Wales Police
Image copyright South Wales Police