A THIEF who was part of a gang which raided a New Forest store was caught after the tracker in his van showed where he had been.
Aaron Morgan (29) and his accomplices sledgehammered their way into three Tesco Express stores, including the branch in Brookley Road, Brockenhurst. He has been jailed for 32 months for his part in the raids.
The Brockenhurst burglary was the third and final store targeted, on 1st October 2019 at 4.40am, Southampton Crown Court heard.
CCTV at the branch captured a yellow Nissan Juke and a white Renault Kangoo driving past a number of times before parking up. Three men then approached and smashed the glass door before entering.
The sledgehammer was used in a failed attempt to remove the cash boxes behind the till, and the trio drove away from the scene in the Renault van.
Police from Lyndhurst spotted the vehicle minutes later as it travelled towards the village from Brockenhurst, and a pursuit followed after it failed to stop.
This ended when the van crashed into the brick wall of a home in Sandy Lane, Lyndhurst, and its occupants fled into a property’s grounds.
A police dog soon found Morgan hiding in the rear garden of a home in nearby High Street. He later claimed to have been the getaway driver in this raid.
Officers recovered the van, inside which they found a disc cutter, a sledgehammer and crowbars.
The spree by Morgan and his gang started when he bought a sledgehammer from a B&Q store in Hedge End shortly before 8.30pm on 16th August 2019. CCTV captured him leaving with the tool.
Shortly after 4am the following morning, footage showed the defendant and three other unknown men gaining entry to the Tesco Express in Charlton, Andover.
The sledgehammer was then used to smash cash boxes from behind the till area and it is believed Morgan escaped with around £1,000 after causing considerable damage to the store.
Officers established a Ford Fiesta had been used in the raid, and the next day they spotted the vehicle in Hamble but it failed to stop when they signalled for it to pull over.
Following a short pursuit, the vehicle stopped and its occupants escaped, leaving the officers to recover it for forensic examination.
The car was found to have a tracker which showed it had been between Morgan’s home address, B&Q and the Tesco Express.
Once arrested for the burglary, Morgan admitted also being responsible for the Brockenhurst raid, along with an attempted burglary at the Tesco Express in Farlington, Portsmouth.
The latter incident took place shortly after 3am on 1st October when CCTV footage showed three men making failed attempts to gain entry. Morgan also claimed to have acted as the getaway driver for this offence.
Having pleaded guilty to two counts of burglary and one of attempted burglary, the defendant, of Sydney Avenue, Hamble-Le-Rice, was put behind bars for 32 months.
Welcoming the outcome, DC Paul Beasley, from the Operation Hawk team based at Southampton Central police station, said the raids had had a “significant impact” on the areas served by the stores.
He also cited the financial losses suffered by Tesco and the emotional toll the offences had taken on its employees.
“Those taking part in such criminal activities show a dedication to a criminal lifestyle and it’s clear that they have no regard to how their actions affect the wider community,” DC Beasley said.
“Morgan did all he could to avoid us. He used hire cars or vans which he purchased and then did not register with the DVLA, and used cloned number plates to disguise.
“He then used tools he purchased especially for these offences and as well as gloves and face coverings to prevent him from being identified by CCTV.”
He continued: “Ultimately, Aaron Morgan’s undoing was his failure to realise that the hire car he was using was fitted with a tracker.
“This essentially left a breadcrumb trail from his home address in Hamble, to B&Q in Hedge End where he purchased a sledgehammer and then on to Andover where both he and the sledgehammer were used in a commercial burglary.
“This case demonstrates how technological improvements in all our everyday lives can assist us in bringing those responsible for serious and organised crime to justice.”