Three men from Accrington are facing long prison terms for two armed robberies that saw a security guard shot.
The men were part of a five-strong gang that carried out two cash-in-transit robberies in 2008, making off with £70,000. Colin McCash, 31, of Spencer Street and Simon Ginn, 28, of Water Street, pleaded guilty at Preston Crown Court to conspiracy to commit robbery in relation to both attacks.
James Mulholland, 37, of Windermere Avenue, was convicted of conspiracy to rob in relation to a raid in Thornton-Cleveleys. Two men from Blackburn, Dean Farrell and David Evans, were convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of a firearm with intent in relation to a robbery in Blackburn.
Detective Superintendent Neil Hunter led the investigation. He said: "We’re absolutely delighted. It’s a culmination of the best part of 16 months hard work."
On August 25, 2008, £50,000 was stolen from a Loomis security guard as he tried to fill up a cash machine at Morrisons supermarket in Thornton-Cleveleys.
Farrell and Evans approached security guard John Moss at around 6am and forced him to hand over the cash cassette. The CID investigation at the time was shelved due to lack of evidence.
The second robbery took place on December 11 2008 at a former estate agents in Blackburn as Loomis security guards attempted to fill an ATM machine. During the robbery, 30-year-old security guard Imran Aslam was shot in the leg and the robbers made off with £20,000.
Det Superintendent Hunter said: "The callous nature of this inquiry was that they got the possession of the cash cassette and then shot the guard afterwards, while he was cowering on the floor."
The estate agents still had running CCTV cameras, which captured the robbery unfolding at just after 7am.
On December 16, 2008 a media appeal for information resulted in an anonymous tip-off naming Farrell and Evans. The pair were arrested the next day in Blackburn as more information came in linking them with the Thornton-Cleveleys attack.
It was then that police began to suspect that the gang had an inside agent.
Det Superintendent Hunter said: "Clearly the same people were responsible for both robberies, but we didn’t know how they could know so much information about the process for taking cash cassettes to cash machines.
"Then we discovered McCash had been in telephone contact with Simon Ginn, who worked for Loomis. It became so vital to us that Simon Ginn had clearly provided information to Colin McCash."
Simon Ginn had even been one of the Loomis guards present at the Thornton-Cleveleys robbery, locking himself in a bunker while the attack took place.
Det Superintendent Hunter said: "That’s how cowardly Simon Ginn is. He secured himself knowing his colleague was going to be attacked."
Another lead came in Christmas 2008 when staff at the Shell garage on Burnley Road in Accrington began to notice dye-stained £10 and £20 notes being spent by gang leader McCash. In January 2009, he was caught on CCTV paying for petrol using the stolen notes.
Det Superintendent Hunter said: "I think they thought they’d got away with it. They started to spend the money a little more overtly. They were flash and callous. The people at the garage deserve enormous credit for being eagle-eyed."
Then, on April 26 last year, a loaded revolver was found by two 10 year olds in Blackburn. This was later confirmed as the gun used to shoot the security guard.
Det Superintendent Neil Hunter said: "This is the most frightening part of the case. I do not dare think about what would have happened if those children had decided to shoot the gun at each other.
"They had not even attempted to conceal it and still had live rounds inside."
McCash, Farrell, Evans and Ginn were arrested in May 2009 over the Blackburn attack. In September McCash, Farrell and Ginn were re-arrested when police had enough evidence to charge them for the Thornton-Cleveleys attack. James Mulholland was arrested the following month.
Det Superintendent Hunter said: "There’s clear evidence that this team is very well prepared and the attacks were five months apart. Who’s to say they aren’t responsible for offences before, during or afterwards?"
The five gang members are due to be sentenced on May 14.