Episode 6 Caught Red Handed


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Episode 6

Dom Littlewood shows how technology is being used to catch crooks. Thieves feed gas into cash machines and explode them.


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Thieves will steal our cash, our cars, our valuables.

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Just about anything they can get their hands on.

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But now, the police are using cutting-edge technology to catch

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-the bad guys.

-We want to make sure we've got a concrete case.

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Enough evidence to convict at court.

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Local councils, shops and businesses are fighting crime

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with their own tricks and traps...

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It's just unbelievable that she thinks she could get away with this.

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..and the public are using secret cameras

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to make sure that crooks get their comeuppance.

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Fair means or foul, I was going to get rid of him.

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I thought, "We've got her."

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And I was so happy. Thank God!

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So anyone who is up to no good had better think twice.

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They might just get caught red-handed.

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Today, there's a new kind of criminal in town -

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thieves who feed gas into cashpoint machines,

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and then ignite them.

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They're after quick cash and don't care about the consequences.

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They're going to kill someone. They really are going to kill someone at

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some stage. All they're concentrating on is getting large

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sums of money for themselves.

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Also today - Robert and Jane are getting ready for a holiday,

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safe in the knowledge that using clever technology,

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they'll be able to keep an eye on their home while they're away.

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And when they do check it from abroad,

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they get a shock.

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An intruder is about to break in.

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We felt helpless.

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We were on the edge of our seats, watching a horror movie unfold.

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But this horror movie has a surprise ending - for the burglar.

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When he tries to escape, he gets nabbed by the Hampshire Home Guard.

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And we've heard of cat burglars,

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but these thieves look more like mice, scurrying around,

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stealing expensive wheels of cheese from a warehouse, but little

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do they realise, these mice are in a trap.

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Criminals are always looking for new and devious ways to steal cash.

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Some thieves don't care if they put

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innocent lives in danger in the process.

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Timperley is a suburban village in Greater Manchester.

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It's where Emily grew up and where she decided to return with her

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young son Leo when they needed a new home.

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When she saw a one-bedroom flat was available to rent above

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the local Post Office, Emily jumped at the chance.

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I knew all my friends and family were round there.

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I went to go and view it with my mum and it was lovely.

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Leo had the bedroom and I had, like,

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sort of the lounge, but it was big enough.

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Emily took a job at the local supermarket to make ends meet and

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she and Leo soon settled in.

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So much easier for me to go to work

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cos we didn't have to walk 45 minutes to school.

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It was a five-minute walk.

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Whee!

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I had the time to spend more time with Leo.

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It was lovely.

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But Emily comes to regret her choice of home when the Post Office

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downstairs is subject to a ruthless

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attack by a dangerous gang of criminals.

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It's night-time in summer.

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Emily is asleep in her bed in the lounge and Leo's in his bedroom.

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Just before midnight, he woke up and came into my bedroom,

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which is not like him at all.

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I just thought maybe he just wanted a bit of cuddle time with Mummy.

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It's as if Leo has had a premonition, because around 2am,

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they are woken up by a violent explosion.

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SIRENS

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I just heard this massive bang.

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The house shook, all the alarms went off,

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the Post Office alarm, my alarm.

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Emily rushes to the window to see what's happened.

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There was a car trying to ram-raid the front of the Post Office.

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The men were trying to pull the shutters up.

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I didn't know once they did that,

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whether they were going to come up into my bedroom, you know,

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bang my door down.

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Leo was really, like, upset.

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It was...petrifying.

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She dials 999.

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As I was on the phone to the police, I then see them escape.

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They drove through a red light,

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straight over a bridge and I was just dead relieved.

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But her relief soon turns to terror.

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The building is on fire.

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I could smell some smoke.

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It was pitch-black, couldn't see anything.

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All the electrics had gone

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and it just started to get thicker,

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the smoke coming up from the Post Office.

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Using the light on her phone,

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Emily goes to check if they can get down the stairs and finds her whole

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flat is a scene of devastation.

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There was wires hanging from the ceiling.

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The floorboard in the kitchen was all caved in and I just thought I

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can't get out. At that point, me and Leo were trapped in the room.

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The police call taker tells Emily to place bedding at the bottom of the

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living room door to keep out the smoke until help can reach them.

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I had to stay calm for Leo.

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He was crying his eyes out.

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Firefighters arrive within minutes and escort Emily and Leo out of

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the building. As she leaves,

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Emily looks into Leo's bedroom and makes a shocking discovery.

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The wardrobe had landed onto Leo's bed.

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Horrible to think he would have been crushed.

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It turns out the gang have used gas to cause an explosion in

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the Post Office's cash machine

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but still failed to get to the money inside.

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So then, they tried to get into the back of the cash machine by

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ram-raiding the post office's main window,

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but couldn't get past the metal shutters.

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Their reckless actions have caused heavy damage to the building.

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Emily and Leo were lucky not to lose their lives,

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but they have lost many of their possessions.

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Most of the stuff was irreplaceable and memories.

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After the explosion, I felt anxious, I didn't sleep.

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Leo has a few nightmares and bad dreams.

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The attempted crime at the Post Office is the latest in a series of

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similar raids in the region.

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Greater Manchester Police's serious and organised crime group

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are brought in. Detective Sergeant Richard Casselly

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is the senior investigating officer.

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We've noticed an incredible increase in these offences,

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I think it was about 16 offences over a very short period of time,

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several months.

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What they'd basically do would be go to an ATM machine,

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usually at night-time, when the premises are closed,

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put gas into those machines, ignite the gas,

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causing a major explosion and steal the cash from within.

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We've not seen this MO before.

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It was a new thing that had just started.

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It's not always the same offenders who are doing it, but I'd have a

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guess it's the same group.

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Richard's team know they have to stop these thieves before they cause

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serious injury.

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It may be in the hours of darkness,

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but they don't know if someone's in the business premises.

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They don't know if someone's going to be walking past.

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They're going to kill someone, because they have no regard for anyone at all.

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All they're concentrating on

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is getting large sums of money for themselves.

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The day after the attempted raid at the Post Office, Richard gets a lead.

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A member of the public who lives just over a mile away calls

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the police to say she heard a

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disturbance in her street in the early hours of the morning.

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What she basically heard was a vehicle pull up to where she lives, outside,

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they parked up and then she heard metal objects being moved out of

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the vehicle, cos she could hear them being scraped along the floor.

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When police go to the location near the caller's house,

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they find a stolen car.

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Inside that stolen vehicle are gas canisters, which have obviously been

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used in our offence a little bit earlier.

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On one of the gas canisters,

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police find partial DNA matches to

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two men who have a history of previous offences.

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There's a lot more work to do when we get this partial DNA profile,

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because it's not enough to arrest someone,

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charge them and put them in prison.

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What it basically does do is start to build a picture for us.

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The gang seems to go to ground for three months.

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But then, there's another raid and it's the most dangerous yet.

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At this petrol station in Partington, Greater Manchester.

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It's just gone 3am on a Friday.

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The forecourt camera records two figures at the garage's cashpoint.

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They start feeding gas into the machine.

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And two minutes later, they ignite it.

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Coming up...

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flaming debris flies across the forecourt.

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A rubbish bin right next to the petrol pumps catches fire.

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I knew there was 11,000 or 12,000 litres of fuel on the site.

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I thought, "Oh, my God."

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But the thieves had made a big mistake.

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This surveillance video shows a cheese cellar,

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where large wheels of precious Parmesan have been maturing for

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the past year. They're worth over £1,000 each.

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And the burglar, who's about to make off with these gourmet goods,

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knows this only too well.

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You're on camera - say cheese!

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But he's not the only mouse to take the bait.

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Not one, not two,

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there's a whole nest of them, scurrying around,

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nibbling at the stack until they've all had a slice of the action.

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They're part of a gang said to have stolen 168 Parmesan wheels and

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16,000 bottles of wine over the past two years.

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But this time, the mice have failed to see the mousetrap

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because they've been caught on CCTV.

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And it doesn't take long for police to sniff out and arrest a total of

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ten Parmesan thieves, and put an end to the little cheese and wine party.

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When we go on holiday, we always think, "Have I cancelled the papers?

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"Did I remember to turn off the gas?" To which we should add,

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"Have I done all I can to make my home secure?"

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Because burglars do love an empty house.

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A burglar returns to the scene of a previous crime.

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The homeowners are on holiday, so he thinks he can take his time,

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stealing their precious possessions.

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But the locals think differently.

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The neighbourhood watch team becomes a neighbourhood Swat team.

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The village of Curdridge nestles in the Hampshire countryside.

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The beauty of the area drew Robert and Jane

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here from London 25 years ago.

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We realised we were going to have

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a baby and wanted to get out of London.

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We loved the countryside,

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so we moved down to a very quiet peaceful village in Hampshire.

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The couple have made many friends in the village over the years.

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It's a fabulous neighbourhood.

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We know everybody here in the lane.

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The neighbours here all club together and we look after

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everybody's property, whether it's watering the plants or looking after

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their chickens when they go on holiday.

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The neighbours also decided to club together for security reasons.

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We run a very good neighbourhood watch system here in the village.

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You know, twice a year we have get-togethers, so we all know

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each other, know each other's phone numbers.

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But have never had any sign of any trouble at all.

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Nothing ever happens.

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It's almost just been an excuse to meet up every six months

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and have a glass of wine and that's it.

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But one day, the neighbourhood watch team proves that it can do more than

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knock back a few glasses of wine

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when they knock down a burglar at Robert and Jane's house.

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It's nearly midnight on a Friday and Robert arrives home after a day of

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meetings in London.

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He's on his own because Jane is abroad.

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I went upstairs to go to bed.

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After about half an hour, I kept hearing a sort of a squeaking noise.

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Suspecting it's a mouse,

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Robert goes to investigate

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and realises the noise is coming from a bedroom.

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I opened the bedroom door and there is a guy sitting on the bed.

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I kind of just froze for a few seconds.

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The man has filled a bag with Robert and Jane's belongings.

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Roberts tells him to drop it and leave.

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I didn't want to have a confrontation.

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It was just get him out of the house and then I'd worry about everything

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after that. The burglar leaves the bag in the bedroom and starts going

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down the stairs. He then suddenly stopped and turned and faced me and

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said, "I want my bag."

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I said, "You can't have your bag. It's my bag. It's my things."

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The thief pushes past Robert.

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We had a sort of a little scuffle as he came past me and he ran down

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the corridor and then slammed the door in my face.

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The man goes back into the bedroom, smashes the window,

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throws the bag out and then makes his escape.

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As well as precious jewellery,

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it turns out the burglar has stolen bikes and other items from an

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outbuilding. Over the next few days,

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Robert arranges for replacement windows and more security measures.

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I was left a bit shaken and then it occurred to me,

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I'd been thinking about CCTV and I thought,

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"Well, actually now is the opportune time to go and do it."

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I need to make it happen.

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He installs two cameras that can

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send him pictures and alerts over the internet.

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I'm quite into the technology

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and liked the concept that it would alert me

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via smartphone if it detected an intruder.

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Robert flies out to meet Jane on holiday.

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When he arrives, he tells her about how he took on the burglar.

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I was very proud of what Robert did, but obviously it was very, very scary,

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because the guy could have had a knife or a gun or anything.

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Jane and Robert are determined to enjoy their break in Andorra, but a

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few days into their holiday,

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an alert from their home security system pops up on Robert's phone.

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An intruder has been detected.

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Oh, goodness! Movement in the driveway.

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I thought, "Well, maybe it's the postman or the milkman or something

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"like that," and then I looked, and realised, "Oh, gosh, it's the same guy."

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I could see him. It's the same guy.

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-We've got to do something.

-Robert and I had both started sort of

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panicking, shouting, "What shall we do?

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"What's going on? This is impossible."

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And I'm shouting at my wife, saying, "You got to call the police.

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"You've got to get somebody there."

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Of course, we didn't know how to call the police from Andorra.

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You can't dial 999 from a foreign country.

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Luckily, Jane knows the phone numbers

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of their neighbourhood watch team.

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We called our next door neighbour and the next one and the next one.

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Time after time, people are not answering their phones.

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It was the third neighbour, actually, managed to answer.

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Jane asked their neighbour to call 999.

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But when she does, because she's not the property owner,

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the call handler suspects it may be a hoax and wants to check before

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sending the police.

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Meanwhile, the intruder has worked out that the house is empty.

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He goes to shut the gate, so it doesn't draw any attention.

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I'm just watching this live, going mad.

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We felt helpless, but we could see it happening.

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Jane phones their daughter in Devon, who contacts Hampshire Police.

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She gives them my number and they, the police then ring me and say,

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"Are you being burgled?"

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And I said, "Yes!"

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"And how do you know?" I said, "Cos I can see it on video.

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-"It's on my camera."

-Officers are dispatched to the house.

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The burglar is oblivious to

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the intense activity he's causing in two countries.

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He climbs onto a roof in order to break in.

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We were devastated because he's

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found something in his hand to go and smash a window.

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GLASS SHATTERS

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And there's a smash to the window, and I thought, "Oh, no, not another one."

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We were on the edge of our seats watching a horror movie unfold.

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Then they see someone else arrive.

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It's the neighbour who Jane talked to on the phone.

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We see a retired lady turn up on her own and, you think,

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"Oh, my goodness, what have we now done?"

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Feeling guilty, because you realise, actually,

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are we asking our neighbours to put themselves into a position that

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it isn't really fair to engage in on our behalves?

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Then more locals arrive.

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The neighbour has organised a posse!

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Four neighbours all turned up, which was just phenomenal.

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And they could see him inside the house.

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-MAN:

-How did you get in here?

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And they're shouting at him, "You shouldn't be there!"

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And he's saying he couldn't get out. And of course, they can't get in.

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So it's a bit of a stalemate.

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Realising he is surrounded,

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the burglar goes upstairs and back out through the window he'd smashed.

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We saw this person jump and land on the gravel.

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He actually landed badly and fell over.

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And then, we saw one, two, three neighbours pile in on top.

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JANE LAUGHS

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And these are guys who are kind of in their late 60s,

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70s and they just sat on top of him.

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The 22-year-old burglar tries to struggle free from his captors.

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The woman runs for reinforcements.

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We hear a lot of horrible shouting.

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ANGRY SHOUTS

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I knew at some point that he could easily break away.

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He had bitten our neighbour's arm through a thick anorak and, you know,

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had raised the most horrific bruising.

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But the brave neighbours somehow managed to keep the strong young man

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pinned down. Six minutes later, reinforcements arrive,

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followed by a police dog handler.

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BARKING

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We realised, thank goodness, that's it.

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The police have come. It will all be fine.

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But though they're pleased the burglar has been caught,

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the impact of the two break-ins hits the couple hard.

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They travel home immediately.

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We just felt invaded, you know.

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Someone had come into our house, they'd been going through my drawers.

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It doesn't feel like your place any more.

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When the intruder appeared in court a month later,

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Jane read out a victim statement.

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I wanted my chance to explain just,

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you know, how horrible it was.

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I really felt everybody was concerned

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and was listening to me as the victim,

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so I was very grateful for that and I was very happy that justice did

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take its course.

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The man pleaded guilty to burglary and other offences,

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including assault and criminal damage.

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He was sentenced to three years in prison.

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Robert and Jane know that without their courageous neighbours,

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they could have had a very unpleasant homecoming.

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We were extremely grateful to the neighbours and, in fact, on the Sunday,

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we invited them all round for some lunch.

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We wanted to thank everybody and we

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all talked about it and shared the experience.

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They have to be the heroes of the day.

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We're back in Greater Manchester,

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where the police are on the trail of dangerous criminals who use gas to

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blow up cash machines to get at the money inside,

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with little concern about the risk to other people's lives.

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CCTV has just captured two men

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causing this explosion at a petrol station.

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They scoop up armfuls of cash and throw away any notes that are burnt.

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It's 5:30am and the garage owner Shohel is woken at home by a

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panicked assistant who's just gone to open up the garage.

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PHONE RINGS

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His words were,

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"Shohel, there's police everywhere and the site is in bits."

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And I just thought, "Oh, my God, what's happened here?"

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Shohel jumps straight into the car and rushes to the garage.

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I could just see a sea of police everywhere.

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I remember seeing money on the floor

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and the cash machine in two halves.

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Some of the garage's pumps are badly damaged.

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Each pump cost anywhere between £20,000 and £50,000.

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I just said, "Oh, my God, how am I going to serve customers now?"

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Shohel and police officers look back through the garage's camera

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recordings to see exactly what's happened.

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When Shohel sees the explosion,

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he knows the situation could have become catastrophic.

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When I saw the fireball go across from the cash machine to the pump,

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I knew there was 11,000 or 12,000 litres of fuel on the site.

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It could have gone directly underneath,

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into the tanks and taken the whole site out.

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If that had gone up in flames, it's not just the petrol station.

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Within that very close proximity, you're talking about 200-odd houses.

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It could have literally taken out the whole of that.

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The robbers get away with £41,000.

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And the repair bill for the garage is nearly £84,000.

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Shohel won't be able to trade properly until the pumps are fixed,

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leaving him severely out of pocket.

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It was supporting my life, my family, I've got suppliers to pay,

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I've got bills to pay, I've got wages to pay.

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The emotion of just frustration and anger, as well as upset.

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The pressure is on for senior investigating officer

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Richard Casselly and his team to track down the men responsible.

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When you look at the service station offence, it just shows how mad,

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how chaotic and how much of a

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disregard for people these people have.

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They're going to kill someone. They really are going to kill someone at some stage,

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because they have no regard for anyone at all.

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All they're concentrating on is

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getting large sums of money for themselves.

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But the gang has made a careless mistake.

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The thieves left behind the gas canisters

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used to ignite the cash machine.

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They are sent off for forensic analysis.

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And there's another breakthrough for Richard and his team -

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a member of the public has just called with valuable information.

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They've seen offenders near the ATM making off on motorbikes straight

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after the offence, with what appears to be rucksacks on their back.

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Richard's team collect CCTV from street cameras in the area to see if

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-they can spot anything.

-In the early hours of the morning,

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-there's not going to be many people on the road.

-And they strike lucky.

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A nearby camera shows the thieves on their motorcycles fleeing the scene

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-of the crime.

-And we could see that one of the bikes in an image was

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like a red type of bike, with quite distinct flashing on the side.

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At the same time, the forensic report on the gas canisters

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the crooks left at the garage comes back.

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Partial DNA has been found matching that of a man known to the police.

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The same DNA was also found on gas canisters used at the earlier raid

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on the Post Office.

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Partial DNA hits are now at the offence at the Post Office,

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and then also at the offence at the service station,

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so even though it's circumstantial evidence, it's becoming stronger.

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The police now have enough evidence to arrest that man and another

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suspect, whose partial DNA was also found on the canister.

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At the first suspect's house, they find £5,700 in cash.

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This chap, he doesn't work.

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He's on benefits and he's got a lot

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of money there in notes, which he's got no reason to have.

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This search of the second suspect's house proves even more fruitful.

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We recover a rucksack.

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Inside the rucksack is gas canisters with piping.

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They find more gas canisters stashed in the rear yard and a

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rather familiar-looking motorcycle.

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Now, this again is a significant find to us.

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We have CCTV footage of two bikes making away from the scene.

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One of them's a red bike with flashing down the sides,

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which is identical in appearance to this.

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Even more vital evidence is uncovered by studying where

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the suspects' mobile phones have been used over the past few months.

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We are able to put them at the scenes of offences and also at the

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scenes of vehicle abandonments, which they were unable to explain.

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This is really strong evidence that again links them to the offences

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that we are investigating.

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With all the evidence stacked up against them,

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both men admitted to the crimes.

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In court, one pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal and causing an

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explosion likely to endanger life and was sentenced to

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eight and a half years in prison.

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The other man also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal,

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to causing an explosion and to an additional robbery.

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He was jailed for 11 and a half years.

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But that wasn't the end of the matter.

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I was at court on the day they got these sentences and immediately

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after sentencing, they both cheered, laughed,

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and one of them even blew a raspberry

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at the gallery as he was taken down.

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It was clear they thought they'd got away with it to a degree and got

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really lenient sentences.

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As a result, we went back,

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had a conversation with the Crown Prosecution Service and requested

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these sentences were appealed due to being unduly lenient.

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And the appeals court agreed -

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their prison sentences

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were increased to 13 years and six months, and 18 years.

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Not such a laughing matter now.

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Detective Richard is pleased with the new jail terms and the

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overall impact this case has had on other criminals

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in Greater Manchester.

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Since the result, there has been a reduction in that type of crime.

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It puts people off with the big sentences.

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I hope it brings a little bit of closure as well for the victims in this.

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For Shohel, who had to build his petrol station back up,

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the robbers being arrested and convicted was wonderful news.

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It was a sense of relief.

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I'm glad it's over.

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They've been caught, they can't do

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it again and nobody else can be affected.

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Emily and Leo's flat was so badly damaged by the thieves causing an

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explosion in the Post Office below, they had to move out.

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But now, they are happily settled in a new home.

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It's onwards and upwards now.

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A new chapter.

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Leo's started a new school, has loads of friends.

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It's nice to see Leo happy and smiley.

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That's it for today. And that's it for a few more criminals who have

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been caught red-handed.

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Thieves feed gas into cash machines and explode them, a couple on holiday are horrified when their phone shows a burglar on the prowl back home, and a gang of men stealing cheese from a factory soon find they have been caught in a trap.