A JUDGE has jailed six men for their part in a series of raids on lorries in which more than £2m worth of goods ranging from lawn mowers to Barbour jackets were stolen.
Thieves targeted curtain-side vehicles, usually after their driver had parked up to rest.
The raiders from two different West Yorkshire-based gangs, who were linked by receivers, would then take the stock to a distribution point, often an isolated yard at South Milford near Selby.
The thefts were highly organised, occurring along the main road networks throughout England and most of the drivers were undisturbed, only to later wake up and find the side of their vehicles had been slashed or the lock removed.
But in one case Leeds Crown Court heard yesterday the driver of a vehicle carrying a valuable load of whisky from Scotland destined for Paris, was tied up and robbed when he took a break in a car park at the BP petrol station on the A1 at Darrington, close to the M62 junction at Ferrybridge.
Roman Studniarz was grabbed round the neck and dragged to the back of his vehicle where he was subjected to a terrifying ordeal when he was tied up and forced to lie in a ditch by three men wearing balaclavas. He was then driven in a van to a remote location near Rochdale where he was dumped, covered in cuts and bruises.
Simon Kealey, prosecuting, said in addition to losing £2,000 cash and personal belongings, 830 cases of whisky valued at £136,000 was taken from his load before the trailer was found burnt out near Wakefield.
In November 2010 police searched the yard at South Milford, an isolated property accessed via a track and handy for the A1, and the premises of Adam Dixon, where they found two stolen vehicles and more than £350,000 of property hidden in secure containers.
That included three Barbour jackets, among £545,000 worth stolen en route to Gateshead, a lawnmower from 159 stolen near Retford and 8,500 items of Next clothing worth more than £71,000 that had been stolen from a lorry near South Elmsall.
One of the main criminals behind those raids is still being sought by police while another has since died but handlers such as David Kirk and Craig Barraclough were arrested.
The second group of thieves, including Jason Reynolds, operated independently using other premises, on occasions in Keighley. His targets included £55,000 of Jagermeister liqueur taken from a lorry near Grantham.
Jailing the six for a total of 26 years and commending DC Nigel Weatherer for his work on the case, Judge James Spencer QC said it involved serious criminal activity.
“It was carried out by ruthless men upon vulnerable victims. It was planned and premeditated, it was persistent and it was done for immense profit.”
Reynolds, of Ferrybridge Road, Redhill, Castleford, was jailed for five years after he admitted conspiracy to rob and theft.
James Hodges 23 of Broom Lawn, Belle Isle, Leeds, who admitted robbing Mr Studniarz, was jailed for eight years.
Barraclough, 44, of Nettleton Court, Leeds, was found guilty of conspiracy to handle stolen goods was jailed for four years.
Dixon, 44, and Kirk, 49, of Ramshead Approach, Leeds, were each jailed for three years after they were also convicted conspiracy to handle stolen goods.
Kyle Bedford, 26, of Winrose Hill, Belle Isle, Leeds, was sentenced to three years after admitting assisting an offender. He drove Hodges back from Rochdale.