Published: 12:04, 27 September 2019
| Updated: 13:36, 27 September 2019
Two men who blew up cash machines in Kent with TNT to steal £35,000 in a series of potentially lethal explosions have been jailed for 33 years.
Judge James O’Mahoney told Victor Coseru, 27, and Gica-Fanica Radu, 36, their use of improvised bombs “was as serious a matter as can be.”
Police have released images of the pair blowing up cash machines
The thieves were this week found guilty of conspiring to detonate explosives inside three cash points, and attacking two others with tools.
A jury heard they were arrested trying to flee the country after exploding an ATM at a Co-Op, in Kennington, Ashford, and making off with £35,000 in February.
Judge O’Mahoney told the Romanian nationals: “This took a most significant amount of planning.
“The use of explosive TNT that is used in a military context, the explosions were highly dangerous and potentially fatal.
“Witnesses describe the sound of huge explosions that sounded like bombs, buildings shook.
“It is about as serious a matter as can be,” he added.
Radu was handed 18 years and Coseru 15 years in prison - the pair will likely face deportation.
Both men remained passive in the dock, as Judge O’Mahoney said the attacks were “almost a mirror image" of Radu’s previous spate of robberies.
Canterbury Crown Court heard Radu in 2012 conspired with others in Greece to blow up three cash machines, he was subsequently jailed.
Improvised Explosive Devices were used in a number of the Greece explosions, similarly to his & Coseru's UK exploits.
The pair this week were found guilty of conspiring to detonate explosives inside a number of ATMs.
TNT was discovered on Coseru’s bracelet and wire-cutters in the boot of their Audi - they were also found to be in possession of £2,600.
The Romanian nationals had come to the UK on the premise of buying vans.
On Tuesday, Judge O'Mahoney dubbed the evidence "overwhelming" and warned the pair to expect long jail sentences.
He added: “What you were using was materials generally associated with battles and warfare and missiles.
“You didn’t come here to buy vans you came here with a campaign to blow up cash machines and take cash."
“This took a most significant amount of planning...." Judge O'Mahoney
Coseru, of previous good character, denied playing any part in the five raids, however, Radu admitted burglary but denied using explosives at a previous hearing.
Evidence of explosives were also discovered at a number of the crime scenes.
Martin Yale prosecuting, highlighted Whatsapp messages referring to explosives between Radu and his ‘brother-in-law.’
But the defendant argued the messages referred to “silicon implants for his mistress” and not explosives, prompting an unusual exchange with Mr Yale.
"You wouldn’t be talking about breast implants for your mistress with your brother-in-law.
"You talk about soft, hard and weights, and you say this is about breast implants for your mistress, you’re married, and this is a conversation with you brother-in-law?
"Your wife’s brother?” asked Mr Yale.
"Yes," Radu replied.
Radu maintained texts describing the raids in first person were “just me bragging to my wife”, rather than a true depiction of the crimes.
The attacks happened in quick succession between January and February this year, the court heard.
Barclays, Tesco and Sainsbury's were also targeted in Buckinghamshire earlier this year however, there was a lull after Coseru left the country, Mr Yale explained.
“You didn’t come here to buy vans you came here with a campaign to blow up cash machines and take cash..." Judge O'Mahoney
“This is relevant because the attacks happened as soon as Mr Coseru returned to the country,” he added.
Both men, formerly of Luddenhan Close in Ashford, were unanimously found guilty of conspiring with others to cause an explosion likely to endanger life or cause serious injury to property.
Radu, represented by John Barker, pleaded guilty to a separate charge of conspiracy to commit burglary between May 31 last year and February 8.
Coseru, represented by Kieran Brand, was also found guilty of conspiring with others to commit burglary at trial.