An Essex man who orchestrated the theft of hundreds of thousands of litres of fuel from an underground pipeline in Kent has been sentenced to five years in prison.

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, formerly 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 a network of criminality with further pipeline thefts detected in Essex, Hampshire, Northampton and Cheshire.

The case went to trial at Maidstone Crown Court and on 25 July this year 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 was sentenced on 8 December 2017.

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.

“He was involved in the theft of millions of litres of petrol, diesel and aviation fuel, undertaking a number of extremely dangerous techniques, breaching pipelines which operate at very high pressure. This was a truly vast operation which would have earned Gull considerable dividends, as he then sold the fuel in huge containers each able to house 1,000 litres at a time.

“His greed has now earned a lengthy prison sentence and rest assured we will now look to use the Proceeds of Crime Act to take back any criminal gains Gull has made.”

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