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Jail for cable gang

Five men whose attacks on railway and communications cable across Hertfordshire, Essex, Leicestershire, Buckinghamshire and London cost almost £715,000 have been jailed.

Christopher Cruz (33) of Mellow Purgess Close, Kris Kreuder (36) of Elizabeth Way, Shaun Nembhard (44) of Coopersales, John Michael Newton (36) of Newberry Side – all of Basildon, Essex – and Bill Lee, (60) who is already serving a jail sentence, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal cable from the railway network.

Simon Scott (45) of no fixed abode but from Leeds, also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal railway cable.

A court heard how the organised gang carried out 47 attacks at various times of the day between 1 May and 30 August 2011, stealing railway cable and BT communication cabling. The thieves were said to have cost Network Rail and BT almost £715,000 to replace and repair the cables as well as fines incurred to train operators as a result of delays, disruptions and cancellations caused.

Officers were first alerted to the gang in May 2011, when Network Rail reported 400m of cable had been cut and stolen from the line in Chelmsford.

A number of other incidents across the railway in the surrounding counties prompted a major investigation by specialised BTP metal theft officers, who began patrolling the lines overnight, using both covert and overt tactics to track the thieves’ movements.

On Tuesday, 30 August 2011, as part of a pre-planned operation, officers arrested three men close to Maldon Road, Margaretting, Essex, in possession of a large amount of BT cable. The three men transpired to be Cruz, Newton and Lee. They were all arrested on suspicion of theft and their mobile phones were seized for evidence.

These arrests, together with a detailed analysis and examination of their mobile phones, linked the three other men to the crimes. Using automatic number plate recognition technology, their vehicles, spotted at the site of a number of theft thefts, also linked them to the thefts.

All six men pleaded guilty to their offences at Blackfriars Crown Court on Wednesday, January 2.

At court on Tuesday, 29 January, five of the six men received combined custodial sentences of more than 12 years for their involvement in the criminal activity.

Cruz was sentenced to three years and nine months in prison; Scott was ordered to serve three years and six months in prison; Nembhard was sentenced to two years and three months in prison; Lee was sentenced to two years’ prison, in addition to a two-and-a-half-year sentence he is already serving, and Kreuder was ordered to serve one year and four months in prison.

Sentencing for Newton was deferred until March, to take place after the conclusion of other unrelated charges under investigation.

Sergeant Joe McClenaghan, the investigating officer from British Transport Police, said after the verdicts: “These sentences show that it is simply not worth considering stealing cable from the rail network. After gathering intelligence on this previously unknown group over a number of months, our officers were eventually able to pinpoint the gang’s movements and arrest them in the act.

“We will continue to use a number of tactics to crack down on this type of crime, which is anything but victimless, and we will do everything in our power to bring them to justice.

Speaking after the case, Simon Davies, General Manager for cable and payphone crime in BT, said: “This gang had complete disregard for the disruption caused to other peoples’ lives by their criminal activities, and it’s pleasing to see the court dealing with them in this way.

“BT is constantly collaborating with police to help bring cable thieves to justice and this is a good example of how effective that is.”

Dave Ward, Network Rail route managing director for the South East, said: “These sentences send a strong message to anyone considering stealing cable from the railway.

“We cannot emphasise just how serious these crimes are. Cable thieves deny passengers the service they rightly expect and, through the massive cost to the industry, deny everyone improvements to rail services.

“We are doing everything we can to protect the railway and will continue to work closely with British Transport Police and other organisations to do everything in our power to deter thieves and bring those who attack our network to justice.”


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