A man has been jailed for the role he played in a string of attacks across Leicestershire and neighbouring counties in 2017 when ATMs, some of which were on forecourts, were blown up.

Tom Connors, 41, of no fixed address, fled the country following the spate of attacks and the arrest of the others responsible in November 2017 and January 2018.

He appeared at Leicester Crown Court on Friday March 13 where he was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

He was arrested at Belfast Airport in January this year and was arrested on suspicion of eight counts of burglary.

He was subsequently charged with eight counts of burglary and three counts of unlawfully and maliciously causing an explosion of a nature likely to endanger life or cause serious damage to property.

He pleaded guilty to the burglary offences at Leicester Magistrates’ Court in January this year, and entered guilty pleas for the explosion counts earlier this week.

The charges relate to attacks where a gang used gas canisters to blow up ATMs, allowing them to get to the cash inside.

Victoria Stather, an investigator with East Midlands Special Operations Unit, said: “Connors, along with the three others, caused hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of damage to stores across the region. He took a very blasé attitude to his own, and the public’s safety.

“Using volatile gas mixtures, they caused a number of explosions which could have had devastating consequences.

“The devastation in the community was great, with often small, rural communities targeted, which caused a great deal of fear and discord in the close-knit communities.”

Addressing the defendant in court, the judge, His Honour Judge Spencer, said that the offending was “highly organised and serious, and you and those with you were using gases which were ignited, causing explosions, with obvious devastation” and that the acts were “brazen, organised and determined”.

He added that Connors had “made determined attempts to abscond and evade justice, fleeing the country – an aggravating feature”

In three months during 2017 the gang blew up 23 cash machines at sites including the Shell Petrol Station, Brook Street, Tring, Hertfordshire, on 8 November, Shell Garage, Princes Risborough, on 3 October, and Texaco Garage, Huntley, Gloucestershire, on 10 November.