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Three men have been jailed for their part in a massive series of burglaries at Little Chef restaurants across the country.
The three were convicted following an investigation led by Hampshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit, working with police forces across the UK.
They were arrested in November 2009 following a police operation at their home addresses in Surrey and West Sussex, and charged in relation to a series of 56 burglaries at Little Chefs.
The break-ins took place between August 3 2009 and November 16, 2009, in Hampshire, Thames Valley, Kent, Essex, Northamptonshire, Suffolk, Dorset, Surrey, Warwickshire, Cambridgeshire, Sussex, Avon and Somerset, and Gloucestershire.
All three were charged with conspiracy to burgle in relation to all 56 offences.
Ross McDowell, 30, Cumbernauld Walk, Crawley, West Sussex;
John McDowell, 59, Oakfields, Dorking, Surrey;
Michael Hallett, 53, Oakfields, Dorking, Surrey.
John McDowell pleaded guilty to all charges at Winchester Crown Court in December 2010, and Ross McDowell and Michael Hallett were found guilty by a jury following a trial in April this year.
Ross McDowell was sentenced to five years in prison, Michael Hallett to three and a half, and John McDowell to two years.
During the series of burglaries, the three stole cash totalling in excess of £29,000.
Hampshire Constabulary led the investigation on behalf of all forces involved after seven offences took place within the county.
Detective Constable Claire Nicholls, of the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said:
“All three defendants were highly organised in their criminality, and in targeting specific Little Chef premises over 14 different force areas.
“Because of the sheer number of burglaries committed, this was a complex investigation requiring dedicated work by officers from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, to piece together the evidence and build a clear picture of a vast network of crime.
“This has led us to the successful convictions and sentencing today, and demonstrates Hampshire Constabulary’s tenacity in pursuing and targeting criminals and bringing them to justice.”
The burglaries which took place in Hampshire were:
1. Little Chef Popham Services, Micheldever
Overnight Saturday, August 15 and Sunday, August 16, 2009, a burglary occurred at the above location where offenders gained entry by forcing a rear window and stole more than £1,000.
2. Little Chef Drayton, Barton Stacey, Winchester
Over the course of the same night, a burglary occurred at the above location where offenders gained entry by forcing a rear window. Nothing was taken but the cost of repair to the window was £400.
3. Little Chef Pickett Post, Ringwood
Overnight Tuesday, August 23, 2009, into Wednesday, August 24, 2009, burglary occurred at the above location where offenders gained entry by forcing the window in a rear fire exit door and have attempted to steal cash but were unsuccessful.
4. Little Chef Liphook Bypass, Liphook
Overnight Wednesday, August 26, 2009, into Thursday, August 27, 2009, burglary occurred at the above location where offenders gained entry by removing a rear window from its frame and attempted to steal cash but were unsuccessful.
5. Little Chef Liphook Bypass, Liphook
Between 2:35am and 2.39am at the above location, two men were seen to run from the side of the Little Chef to a van that was parked in the Travel Lodge Hotel car park. The van then made off through the services onto the A3. No entry was gained to the Little Chef.
6. Little Chef Tothill Services A34
Overnight Sunday, October 25, 2009, and Monday, October 26, 2009, a burglary occurred at the above location where offenders gained entry by forcing a rear toilet window along with the fire door. Nothing was stolen.
7. Little Chef Sutton Scotney Services, A34 Winchester
Overnight Sunday, October 25, 2009, and Monday, October 26, 2009, burglaries occurred at the above location where offenders gained entry by forcing a rear window, and have attempted to steal cash but were unsuccessful.