Thieves – including a Sheffield man – who stole anti-tank mines from a train have been jailed for a total of more than 30 years.
Michael Hellon, of Hadfield Close, Darnall, was part of a six-strong gang involved in an ‘opportunistic’ raid on a Ministry of Defence train where 40 mines were stolen.
The devices were taken when the train stopped in Cheshire, en route to Oxfordshire, on October 24.
When the theft was discovered an investigation was launched, involving counter-terrorism officers, who retraced the train’s journey.
They searched a site near Warrington, Cheshire – where the train had made a 16-minute unscheduled stop due to a red signal – and found some mines hidden nearby.
Police received a tip-off 31-year-old Hellon and Philip Yates, aged 29, of Birkenhead, the Wirral, were involved.
When police visited them, they admitted knowing of the theft, but denied involvement. Yates eventually admitted the missing mines were hidden in woods. A handgun and ammunition were also found.
Hellon, who was jailed for five years, was convicted of handling stolen goods and possessing explosives at Liverpool Crown Court.
Police said enquiries showed Hellon was researching anti-tank mines the day after the theft.
Yates, Kris Black, 23, of Birkenhead, and David Smith, 30, of Edge Hill, Liverpool, admitted theft and possessing explosives,
Yates was jailed for seven years and three months and Black was jailed for five years and seven months. Smith did not attend and an arrest warrant was issued.
Detective Chief Superintendent Tony Mole, of the North-West counter-terrorism unit, said: “What started out as an opportunistic theft developed into a challenging policing operation.”
Leonard Ash, 50, of Birkenhead, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years and Jason McKee, 27, of Bromborough, the Wirral, was jailed for seven years and four months after they were convicted of handling stolen goods, possessing explosives and firearms offences.