Norfolk gang stole painkilling gas canisters from hospitals just before lockdown
PUBLISHED: 15:44 13 October 2020 | UPDATED: 08:28 14 October 2020
Members of a Norfolk-based gang stole painkilling gas from five hospitals the day before the country was put into lockdown during the coronavirus crisis, a court has heard.
Four men carried out the well-planned spree with raids on hospitals in Stockport, Manchester and County Durham over the weekend of March 21 to 23, which was just 24 hours before prime minister Boris Johnson put the country into lockdown.
Gas cylinders containing Entonox and nitrous oxide were stolen by the gang during the raids which have been described as “despicable” and potentially “catastrophic” by a judge.
Harry Goodrum, 23, of Norwich Road, Dereham, Jake Roberts, 23, of Chestnut Hill, Norwich. Wayne John Grady, 42, of no fixed address, and Oliver Evans, 22, of Sandy Lane North, Wallington, Surrey, were each jailed for four years each at Teeside Crown Court on Tuesday after each had previously admitted a single charge of conspiracy to commit burglary earlier this year.
Sentencing the defendants, Judge Paul Watson QC told them: “At this time, given the situation the health service is in, the effects could have been catastrophic.”
He said the Entonox and nitrous oxide cylinders were essential for pain management across the “whole spectrum” of the health service, and called the burglaries “despicable conduct”.
Judge Watson added: “We know that in March of this year the country was in the early stages of being in the grip of a terrible pandemic, the spectre of which is still hanging over the nation now.”
He said the raids posed a “significant risk of harm to those receiving pain management treatment”.
The gang first broke into Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport and stole two nitrous oxide canisters, used for pain relief.
They then drove to Willington Hospital in Manchester and took another eight - some containing Entonox, or “gas and air”, which is often used in childbirth, and others nitrous oxide - from a storage unit after cutting through padlocks.
The gang travelled to the North East and smashed their way into a storage unit at Chester-le-Street Community Hospital to steal more canisters in the early hours of the next day.
They committed similar attacks on hospitals in Bishop Auckland and Darlington, taking 14 canisters from the latter, and driving off with them in the back of a BMW fitted with stolen number plates.
Det Con Helen Hudson, from Durham Constabulary, said: “This was an absolutely despicable crime.
“They deliberately targeted hospitals at a time when they were under enormous pressure because of the ongoing pandemic.
“These men showed complete disregard for anyone else when they removed these canisters from the hospitals.
“Their actions could have posed a huge risk to the health and wellbeing of a significant number of people at a time when medical attention was needed.”
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