A man from Wednesfield has been jailed for nine years for doing 180mph on the M6 after a robbery in the Black Country.
33 year old Ben Westwood is one of five men, who’ve been sentenced to a total of 23 and a half years behind bars.
They were involved in a string of commercial robberies across three police force areas between August 2011 and January 2012.
The men, all from Wolverhampton, were arrested after a raid on the Murco Petrol Station in Warstones Road, Wolverhampton in the early hours of Friday 13 January this year.
Ben Westwood, aged 33, and Stephen Green, aged 41, pleaded not guilty, but were found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to steal on 13 July.
Three others, Gregory Simpson, aged 26, Ramesh Sharma, aged 38, and Luke Watkins, aged 34, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to the same charge. Westwood was also convicted of dangerous driving.
The raids, across West Mercia, the West Midlands and Staffordshire police areas, were linked after a distinctive white Audi RS5 was spotted or captured on CCTV at each crime scene, bearing false number plates.
The car, worth £85,000 and one of only two of that particular specification in the country, had been stolen from Stourport-on-Seven on 3 August last year.
Superintendent Richard Baker, from Force CID, said: “The offenders targeted supermarkets and petrol stations for cigarettes and a bowling alley’s game machines. H Samuels in Walsall was also ram-raided using a stolen Mitsubishi Pajero.”
On Friday 13 January, police were alerted to an attempted robbery of the ATM machine at the Murco garage. A white van had reversed up to the cash machine and heavy duty cutting equipment was used to attempt to cut it open. The distinctive RS5 was again spotted, although it had by now been resprayed black.
Police were on the scene in minutes and arrested Sharma, Green and Watkins in the van, but Westwood and Simpson made their getaway in the Audi onto the M6 travelling northbound through Hilton Park Services.
Police gave chase but were forced to halt their pursuit as the car reached a staggering 180 miles per hour.
Watch some of the chase here:
The police helicopter took up the chase as they doubled back at junction 13 and attempted to exit at junction 12. A police stinger didn’t deter them as the gang did a u-turn on the exit slip road and went back onto the M6 the wrong way, doing a handbrake turn to set them southbound again to leave at Hilton Park services.
Superintendent Baker said: “Westwood showed a blatant disregard for other road users as he sped through Bilston and Wednesfield at speeds in excess of 100mph. Video footage from the helicopter estimates speeds of up to 180mph on the M6 as he attempted to evade capture.”
The car was eventually abandoned at a block of flats in Pickering Road, Wednesfield where police dogs tracked the offenders into the flats and they were arrested.
All five were remanded in custody to await trial.
Superintendent Baker added: “This has been a lengthy investigation involving our colleagues from West Mercia and Staffordshire police, but we are pleased that the outcome has resulted in these men being removed from the streets, where they would no doubt still be committing crime.”
On sentencing Westwood, Recorder Nigel Baker said: “I am satisfied that you were the leader of the group and that you played a prominent role in the conspiracy to burgle these premises.
You have an appalling record and the time has come to increase the level of sentencing to that which you have already seen. This was an atrocious piece of dangerous driving.”
Ben Westwood 14/12/78 Nine years in total seven and a half for burglary and six years for conspiracy to steal (concurrent) plus 18 months for dangerous driving (consecutive). Also banned from driving for four years.
Gregory Simpson 10/2/86 Four years for conspiracy to steal.
Ramesh Sharma 27/12/73 Three years for conspiracy to steal.