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Car stolen in Stourport in 180mph 'white knuckle' getaway chase
4:46pm Thursday 23rd August 2012 in News
A GETAWAY driver who hit 180mph in a powerful Audi RS5 stolen in a raid on a house in Stourport as a police helicopter struggled to keep him in view during a terrifying chase has been jailed for a total of nine years.
Gang leader Benjamin Westwood sped off in the rare car - one of only two in the country - after he and his accomplices failed to burn open an ATM cash machine on a garage wall.
What followed was described as a "white knuckle ride" by Recorder Nigel Baker QC along the M6, with Westwood going so fast pursuing police patrol cars could not catch up with the high performance Audi.
Flames appeared to shooting from the back of the Audi and its wheels got so hot they left black trail marks along the surface of the motorway.
It was an "appalling and atrocious piece of driving," added the Recorder, who stressed it was clear the car had been taken "to and beyond its limit".
He told the 33-year-old serial criminal, who laughed as he was being sentenced, he had been the brains behind a string of highly organised raids on commercial premises in the West Midlands, in which £60,000 worth of cigarettes had been stolen and the Audi, which later had it its colour changed from white to black, had been used, said the Recorder, to get the "booty away as fast as possible."
Westwood was finally caught after dodging a stinger device put down by police when he abandoned the supercar and went into a Wolverhampton flat, where he was arrested, along with his "lieutenant" Gregory Simpson.
The luxury Audi, stolen in a burglary at a house in Stourport, had a Lamborghini engine, racing car brakes and had been specially modified.
It was linked by police to a number of raids carried out in the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Shropshire areas, with the burglars taking just a matter of minutes to smash shutters and load cigarettes into black bags.
Police investigating the raids combed CCTV footage and they spotted the white Audi with its distinctive grill and sports wheels in the vicinity of all the crimes, while displaying different false number plates.
Westwood, Simpson and three other men then used cutting gear to try and burn open the cash machine in Wolverhampton and when police swooped they all fled empty handed.
The Audi was driven off with Westwood behind the wheel and Simpson in the passenger seat and it out-accelerated chasing police BMWs on the M6 as it headed to Stafford before doubling back to Wolverhampton.
Westwood of Woden Road, Wolverhampton, had denied conspiracy to burgle and steal and driving dangerously but he was convicted at the end of his trial and he was also disqualified from driving for four years.
Simpson, 26, of Wordsworth Road, Wolverhampton, also denied conspiracy to steal and was sent to prison for four years by the Recorder.
Three other Wolverhampton men admitted conspiracy to steal. Stephen Green, 26, of Castlebridge Road, got four and a half years, Luke Watkins, 34, of Whetstone Grove, three years, nine months and Ramesh Sharma, 38, of Barrington Close, three years.
Westwood had also been linked to a raid on the Tesco store in Millwood Drive, Worcester, where £200 damage was done to shutters in a failed bid to break-in and with a raid on the Co-op store in Ombersley Road, Worcester, where £4,000 worth of cigarettes were taken and £4,000 damage was caused.
He was also linked with two burglaries on successive nights at the Spar Store in Lower Lickhill Road, Stourport, in which £10,000 worth of cigarettes, £1,000 worth of drink and £400 worth of stamps were taken and £2,000 damage caused by the raiders.