Published: 11:00, 08 February 2018
A thief reached some of the highest speeds ever recorded on Kent's roads as he attempted to escape arrest after a bungled supermarket ram raid.
Keiron Armstrong was clocked hurtling along the M2 at 150mph after he smashed into a wall at Morrisons in Queenborough with a gang of raiders.
The early-hours ram raid put the lives of night workers inside in danger and caused around £92,000 in damage.
Armstrong fled in a stolen Audi S4 and led police on a high speed chase on the M2 before losing control and crashing into undergrowth off junction three for Chatham.
Jailing Armstrong for six years yesterday, a judge said it was a miracle nobody was killed or seriously injured.
Maidstone Crown Court heard the thieves struck at the supermarket in Thomsett Way at about 1.30am on September 16 last year.
A stolen Merlow Telehandler with a digger attachment was used to smash down the wall containing the cash machine and straps were to be used to lift it on to a waiting flatbed truck to carry it away.
But the gang was disturbed by the arrival of the police. About five members made off and were not caught, but Armstrong was spotted and followed.
As he hit 150mph, he turned off his headlights and officers lost sight of him. But he was found in the undergrowth by a police dog named Merlin near the smoking car, which he had lost control of on a roundabout and crashed.
Armstrong, of Brays Mead, Harlow, Essex, admitted attempted theft, criminal damage, aggravated vehicle taking, dangerous driving and driving while disqualified.
He was banned from driving for eight years.
Recorder Jonathan Higgs QC criticised the Crown Prosecution Service for “wrongly” charging Armstrong with attempted theft, and not the more serious offence of attempted burglary.
“This was a sophisticated, well-planned serious attempt to steal a substantial amount of money,” he said. “Within the context of ram-raiding it may be a familiar story.”
The Audi was stolen in Rochdale, Manchester, and the truck and digger in Essex.
“The part you played was to drive away in a high speed vehicle either as a getaway driver or to assist with getting away with some of the proceeds of the theft,” Recorder Higgs told Armstrong.
“It was ultimately unsuccessful in stealing anything. It doesn’t mean it didn’t have consequences for the premises concerned. They were very substantial.
“Substantial damage was caused to the structure of the building. That caused real risk to people at the scene.”
Armstrong protested about the amount of credit he was being given for the timing of his plea, telling the judge: “You’re stitching me up. It’s wrong.”
"This was a brazen attempt by offenders who had clearly planned the offence" - DI Gary Scarfe
The highest speed ever recorded in Kent is thought to be 153mph, which was reached on the M20 in 2011.
The top speed since then was 149mph, which was recorded on the M25 near Swanley in 2013.
After the hearing, Detective Inspector Gary Scarfe said: "This was a brazen attempt by offenders who had clearly planned the offence, knowing there would be staff working within the store but showing no concern for their safety as they repeatedly rammed the wall.
"Armstrong and his accomplices hoped to cash in on what they thought was a soft target without any consideration of the damage and potential harm it could cause. Thankfully nobody was injured.
"He will now have a substantial amount of time in prison to reflect on his failed efforts."
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