Lancashire

Thwaites Brewery travellers' camp: Fourth man convicted

Caravans and vehicles at Thwaites brewery
Image caption About 100 travellers set up camp at the brewery on 26 May

A fourth defendant has been convicted for his part in a £300,000 wrecking spree at a brewery which was illegally occupied by a group of 100 travellers.

Patrick Ward, 32, was among the gang that set up camp at the Thwaites site in Blackburn, Lancashire, in May.

Prosecutors said he was caught on CCTV stealing items from the town centre site.

Jurors at Preston Crown Court found him guilty in his absence of conspiracy to burgle and commit criminal damage.

'Utterly deplorable'

A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Ward, of Aspull Common, Leigh, Wigan, who previously denied the charges.

Leader of the gang Thomas Ward, also of Aspull Common, pleaded guilty on Monday to blackmailing with menaces, conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to commit criminal damage.

John Ward, 33, also of Aspull Common, and a 17-year-old male, who cannot be named because of his age, also admitted the conspiracy offences.

The court heard Thomas Ward demanded £20,000 from brewery boss Richard Bailey, going on to trash the site when he realised the money would not be paid.

Image copyright PA
Image caption John Ward is due to be sentenced with Patrick and Thomas Ward in January

Supt Andrea Barrow from Lancashire Police said police were met with "scenes of utter devastation" when they finally gained access to the brewery.

She said equipment and alcohol was stolen, the power was cut, furniture and windows damaged and a water cooler had been tipped over causing flooding.

Mr Bailey said while he was "horrified by this unprovoked and criminal attack" the brewery had now moved and "wished to put the whole matter behind us".

The three adult defendants will be sentenced on 11 January.

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