(Image: GMP)

In a dramatic turn of events, Wesley Shepherd, 40, and Benjamin Thompson, 36, have been sentenced to over 30 years in jail for a series of robberies across Greater Manchester, culminating in a particularly shocking incident caught on CCTV. The footage captured the moment an explosive device detonated in the face of one of the robbers, propelling tens of thousands of pounds into the air.

The incident took place at a store in Northwood, Stoke-on-Trent, in July of the previous year. CCTV footage revealed one of the robbers confronting a member of the public outside the store, while inside, an accomplice with a face covering repeatedly smashed a standalone ATM with a hammer. Simultaneously, a worker near the door acted frantically. After approximately seven seconds, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated, causing sparks and enveloping the shop in a thick cloud of smoke, told Stoke on Trent Live.

The shocking video was released as part of the sentencing for Shepherd and Thompson, who were convicted of robbing the Northwood shop and three other convenience stores in Greater Manchester, totaling £157,000 in stolen funds, with £92,800 pilfered from the Northwood ATM. Manchester Crown Court heard that the duo forcibly removed workers from the shops late at night before using IEDs to access the ATMs.

During the ill-fated July robbery, the IED exploded prematurely, causing an injury to Thompson and £5,800 worth of damage, with witnesses recounting how cash was left scattered around the car park. Following the crime spree, the pair was spotted passing through Manchester Airport and subsequently traveled to Malaga, Egypt, and Mexico. They were apprehended by armed police in September of the same year.

In sentencing, Thompson received a 20-year prison term, while Shepherd was sentenced to 18 years and eight months. Both pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit robbery and causing an explosion likely to endanger property and life during an earlier hearing.

Detective Sergeant Rich McCorry from GMP Serious Organised Crime Group expressed disdain for the offenders’ lack of regard for public safety, highlighting the significant impact such unprovoked attacks can have on victims. He commended the diligent investigation involving collaboration between Greater Manchester and Staffordshire Police, ensuring that the two dangerous individuals are now behind bars for an extended period. Judge Conran, in delivering the sentence, acknowledged the defendants’ intelligence but emphasized the severe consequences of their actions, expressing regret for the losses they would incur during their lengthy custodial terms.

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