A MUM thought ‘this is it, we’re going up’ as a gang of ATM thieves tried to blow up the cash machine beneath her six-year-old daughter’s bedroom.

Aimee Parsonson-Smith was woken up by the sound of loud banging coming from the Post Office directly below her flat at 4.15am on July 3, 2019, Oxford Crown Court heard.

She heard a man shouting ‘just leave it’ before a car was driven off.

Looking out her living room window, she could see flames licking the pavement below and smelled petrol.

Prosecutor Barry McElduff told the court yesterday: “She panicked and thought that the Post Office was on fire. Ms Parsonson-Smith remembered thinking ‘this is it, we’re going up’.” The woman roused her sleeping daughter and they fled to the safety of her car.

The Post Office cash machine in Yateley, Hampshire, was one of 18 ATMs that James ‘Jimmy’ Sheen’s gang tried to blow up in a series of highly-organised gas attacks across the Home Counties between June and August 2019.

Only two of the attempts were successful, with 37-year-old Sheen, trusted lieutenant David Riley, 26, and ‘gun for hire’ Frenny Green, 33, making off with £100,000.

They struck gold at a Co-op in Leavesden, Herts, on June 13. As they made off with £73,810, the gang-of-three could be heard saying ‘thank you, Co-op’.

On June 24, at the One Stop in Hemel Hempstead residents in the flats above the shop described hearing a ‘huge bang’. The owner said it looked like ‘a bomb blast had gone off’. The back of the ATM had been blown off and the front door rammed open, with the thieves taking £27,970.

The court heard the gang would amass at Sheen’s house in Warren Crescent, Headington, and later at the Manor Park caravan site near Kidlington before heading out on their raids.

Forensically aware, they would typically leave their phones at home and wore homemade ‘ski mask’ disguises.

Sheen’s partner appeared unhappy at his enterprises, presciently telling him in a message ahead of the first ATM raid on June 9, 2019: “You’ll lose everything to get a few quid.”

READ MORE: Full story of how Jimmy Sheen's gang of ATM thieves were caught by Oxfordshire police

Surrey Comet: The scene after a raid on the Bletchington Co-op in 2020The scene after a raid on the Bletchington Co-op in 2020

Surrey Comet: The ATM in the wake of the raid on the Co-op, Leavesden in June 2019 Picture: WATFORD OBSERVER/NQThe ATM in the wake of the raid on the Co-op, Leavesden in June 2019 Picture: WATFORD OBSERVER/NQ

The gang’s relative lack of success using oxyacetylene gas saw the gang switch to dragging them out in late 2019.

Their first ‘drag out’ took place in the early hours of December 18, 2019. Targeting the Co-op in Newbury, they jemmied the doors then looped a yellow strap around cash machine inside but abandoned their efforts to tug it out when they were seen by witnesses.

On December 29, they used the same method to successfully get away with £34,000 and the ATM from a Costcutter in Ambrosden. The damaged remains of the cash machine was found in the Shotover Estate.

Other ATMs were targeted by the drag-out burglars in Didcot, Windsor, Charvill and Bletchingdon.

Relatively new gang member Shane Harris, 32, was arrested in January at an M5 service station near Exeter together with a stolen Audi A4 stuffed with the tools of the burglar’s trade, including sledgehammers, jemmies and petrol cans.

He was replaced in April by Jimmy Loveridge, 30, and Paul Smith, 30, who had previous experience of high-value commercial break-ins.

Overnight on May 13 and 14, 2020, Loveridge and Smith were with Sheen when they were interrupted trying to steal a Mitsubishi 4x4 from a driveway in Horndean, Hampshire.

The trio fled in a BMW, with Loveridge later telling an associate via a mobile phone voicenote recording that they ‘got bad chased again last night’ – adding of the ‘poxy’ cash machines: “They’re not worth touching, honest to God they’re not.”

Surrey Comet: Palace Street, Newmarket Picture: GOOGLEPalace Street, Newmarket Picture: GOOGLE

On May 8, having travelled east from the Manor Park caravan site near Kidlington, Sheen, Loveridge and Riley used sledgehammers to smash their way into the National Horseracing Museum in Newmarket.

They were out within minutes, having stolen 10 trophies worth a total of £390,000 – including the £75,000 Ascot Gold Vase.

That month - May - the gang shifted their attention from stealing ATMs to taking agricultural machinery worth hundreds of thousands of pounds. Several pieces of plant stolen in Oxfordshire and destined for the continent were seized at the Port of Dover.

The gang’s activities came to a tragic end on June 10, 2020. En route to burgle an antiques centre in Tetsworth, their stolen Mercedes crashed after Loveridge cut a blind bend. One of the car’s occupants, Rocky Broadway, was killed. Loveridge, Smith and fourth man Albert Johnson were seriously injured.

Surrey Comet: Jimmy Loveridge, Albert Johnson and Paul Smith's mugshots, released by Thames Valley Police last year Picture: TVPJimmy Loveridge, Albert Johnson and Paul Smith's mugshots, released by Thames Valley Police last year Picture: TVP

On May 19, 2022, the Crown outlined Sheen’s gang’s crimes in the first day of what is expected to be a two day sentencing hearing.

Mr McElduff, for the prosecution, adopted the language of the case law, describing the raids on the ATMs as an ‘affront to civilised society’. The gang had caused hundreds of thousands of pounds in damage, while some of the targeted cash machines were not replaced – leaving communities without easy access to cash.

The prosecutor said: “These defendants all played their part in offending that showed a total disregard for the laws of the land and the safety of others.

"All the conspirators cared about was making as much money as possible from criminality and saving their own skins.”

The defendants

Sheen, of Warren Crescent, Headington, has admitted conspiracy to cause explosions, conspiracy to burgle, burgling the Newmarket Horseracing Museum, theft of a Landcruiser in Aynho, attempted theft of a Mitsubishi in Horndean, using a stolen BMW and conspiracy to steal plant machinery. He has previous convictions for dishonesty and in 2010 got 14 years for a drive-by shooting.

Riley, of Linkfield Lane, Redbridge, faces sentence for conspiracy to cause explosions, conspiracy to burgle, the Newmarket burglary, theft, and handling stolen plant machinery. He has nine previous convictions including for burglary.

Green, of no fixed address, has pleaded guilty on a basis to conspiracy to cause explosions. His 23 previous convictions include several for burglary.

Harris, of Hughes Close, Charlbury, admitted conspiracy to burgle. He was briefly involved in the drag-out conspiracy.

Loveridge, of Chertsey Road, Chobham, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle, conspiracy to steal plant machinery, attempted theft, using criminal property and the Newmarket Museum burglary.

Smith, of Hearmon Close, Yateley, was found guilty of conspiracy to burgle, attempted theft and using a stolen BMW. He admitted conspiracy to steal plant machinery.

Both Smith and Loveridge were involved in a gang responsible for a wave of commercial burglaries in the mid-2010s, including a raid on the Red Bull Racing F1 team headquarters near Milton Keynes when they walked out with armfuls of trophies.

They will be sentenced later today by Judge Michael Gledhill QC. 

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward