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Five Jailed Over North Yorkshire Phone Cable Thefts

Police car

5:32pm 12th June 2014

Five men who travelled across North Yorkshire stealing cable from rural areas have been jailed for a total of more than 11 years.

Brian Smith, Elijah Boswell, Glen Hepburn, Michael Tillotson, and Mark Ella were charged with conspiracy to steal after officers discovered that they had either stolen or cut cable in preparation to be taken away from 11 British Telecom sites across the county between October 2012 and January 2013 .

The scrap value of the cable was more than £33,000 with a replacement value to BT of over £50,000.

The gang used large metal keys, only available to BT engineers, and specialist hydraulic lifting equipment to open manhole covers and access the cable which was installed at a minimum depth of 1.5 metres below the ground.

They targeted remote areas, often at night in an effort to avoid detection, but were caught when they were stopped travelling in convoy away from the scene of a cable theft on the A171 Whitby to Scarborough Road at around 8pm on 8 January 2013.

Officers found stolen BT cable in one of their vehicles and metal BT devices that are used to open manhole covers in both of the vehicles they were travelling in.

BT are not always able to pinpoint exactly when a theft occurred but are able to identify time parameters to establish when it took place. Officers used this information along with other covert enquiries to put the defendants at the scene of a further 10 thefts.

The other theft sites were at Naburn Lane, in Naburn, near York, Speeton, in Filey, the Whitby Road at Cloughton, near the Falcon Inn, and Moor Lane, in Murton, near York.

Other offences were identified at Malton Road, in York, Stockton Lane in Stockton on Forest on two separate occasions, Sleeper Lane at Little Ouseburn, Eastfield Lane at Dunnington and the A171 near the Flask Inn on Fylingdales Moor near Whitby.

All five men pleaded guilty to all 11 thefts at Teesside Crown Court at an earlier hearing.

Today they returned to the court for sentencing.

Brian Smith, aged 37, of James Street, York, was jailed for 27 months. However his sentence will run concurrently to a nine-year-sentence he also received today for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs in York.

Boswell, aged 26, of Smithies Lane, Barnsley, was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment.

Hepburn, aged 35, of Gaitskell Walk, Leeds, was jailed for two years and three months.

Tillotson, aged 45, of Airy Hill, Filey, received a jail sentence of two years and nine months, and Ella, aged 39, of Bramham Avenue, York, was sent to prison for 12 months.

Detective Inspector Mark Pearson, of North Yorkshire Police Organised Crime Unit, welcomed the sentences.

He said: “These men were travelling around North Yorkshire stealing cable from isolated locations which was costing tens of thousands of pounds to replace and leaving residents without power.

“They were very active over a number of months before we caught up with them and since they were arrested there haven’t been any similar incidents in the county.

“Organised crime groups like this have the potential to really impact on the quality of life in our communities, which is why we have a specialist unit to target criminal gangs and disrupt and detect their activities.

“A great deal of effort from officers within North Yorkshire Police’s Organised Crime Unit went into this investigation and thankfully this particular gang are now serving prison sentences which their actions deserve.

“Organised crime is a priority for North Yorkshire Police and this is just the latest of a number of convictions we have secured recently for criminal gangs operating in our area.”

If you know of anyone who is involved in organised crime, please contact North Yorkshire Police on 101 – select option 2 – and pass information to the Force Control Room.

If you prefer not to give your name, Crimestoppers can be contacted anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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