An Essex man who orchestrated the theft of hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel from an underground pipeline in Kent has been found guilty following a trial.

Roger Gull was part of a criminal operation which involved drilling into high pressured pipelines to steal fuel worth millions of pounds.

An investigation led by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate revealed Gull, aged 51, used a false name to rent a barn on land off Ovenden Road, Chevening in July 2013.

He identified himself to the landowner as ‘Dave Saunders’ and claimed he was with a company undertaking engineering works on the M25 and needed to use the site as a storage area.

Gull, of Upminster Road, North Rainham, Essex, erected a metal fence and moved shipping containers onto the site. Labourers with specialist skills and knowledge were then paid to drill into the nearby fuel pipelines.

A hydraulic hose fed stolen fuel back to a compound and into huge containers stored in lorry trailer.

On 6 August, 2014, operators of the pipeline detected a breach and an inspection led to the discovery of the hose, buried to a depth of 2ft and running from the pipeline to the compound.

Enquiries led to the arrest of Gull on November 2014. Officers uncovered an elaborate network of criminality with further pipeline thefts detected in Essex, Hampshire and Northampton.

The case went to trial at Maidstone Crown Court and on 25 July 2017 Gull was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to steal hydrocarbon oils (between 1 July, 2013, and 6 August, 2014) and two offences of money laundering. He is due to be sentenced on 6 September.

Detective constable Dean Sycamore of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “Roger Gull compromised underground pipelines in a number of regions across the UK. These crimes required highly specialised and dangerous techniques to siphon the fuel, from pipelines which operate at very high pressure.

“Millions of litres of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel were stolen. The site, which we uncovered on land off Ovenden Road, was effectively being used as an impromptu refinery. A search by officers of this location led to the discovery of a trailer, shipping containers and a caravan. Inside the trailer alone, were twenty containers, all of which were able to store 1,000 litres of fuel, which would then be sold on.”

Two other men arrested during the investigation were found not guilty of charges relating to conspiracy to steal and money laundering.