Three men who stalked security vans in a stolen car waiting for the perfect moment to grab cash boxes did not plan to use force, a jury has ruled.

Girry Richardson, 20, Charlie Critchley, 19, and Nicholas George Carter, 20, were rammed off the road by armed police in New Malden on August 21, while planning a raid.

They were cleared of conspiracy to rob by an Old Bailey jury this week. They will now be sentenced on their earlier guilty pleas to conspiracy to steal.

Detective Constable Danny Watts from the flying squad said: “Their defence was always that they agreed that they were together in a stolen car, they were in possession of a GPS jammer and they were in possession of an industrial grinder.

“But they were always going to get themselves into a position that if at any stage they saw a guard put the cash box down – they would snatch the box from the floor. The jury went along with that.” During the trial prosecutor Sam Brown said: “These defendants engaged in long and determined observations. If the guard resisted, why would the defendants not use some force?”

On the day, police officers were tipped off by an off duty police officer who saw two of the men loitering outside the William Hill bookies in High Street by Grafton Road, New Malden.

The men were seen intently staring at a cash in transit van and were wearing hoodies and gloves in the summer.

The trio began their journey in Surbiton and drove through Cheam, Morden and New Malden following vehicles belonging to security companies G4S or Loomis for more than five hours.

Officers conducted a “hard stop” by ramming into their stolen black Nissan Juke in Burlington Road, New Malden On the afternoon of August 21.

In the drama a packed 131 bus full of passengers and a silver BMW car was hit.

At the time Candice Nicoll, 28, who was travelling to Raynes Park on the top deck of the bus, said: “We felt the bus get hit. Then everyone was screaming.

“There were so many guns. We just ducked in case any shots were fired. It was just chaotic.”

Richardson, of the Hollands, Worcester Park, Critchley, of St George’s Gardens, Surbiton, and Carter, from Chingford, will be sentenced at the Old Bailey on March 8.