A MAN has pleaded guilty to being part of a gang that plotted to explode cash machines across the North West and central England.

Ian Ellis, 30, from Warrington Road in Rainhill is due to be sentenced in September along with four others for their part in thefts and attempted thefts at 28 premises including banks, supermarkets and post offices from Prescot to Loughborough.

All men were charged with conspiracy to cause an explosion and conspiracy to commit burglary other than a dwelling.

Police say the attacks caused around £200,000 in damage.

One of the incidents was at the Nat West Bank on Eccleston Street in Prescot last September.

Detective Chief Inspector Gayle Rooney from the Matrix Serious Organised Crime Team said: “These five men thought they were untouchable and they used hazardous tactics in targeting ATM's, clearly endangering members of the public. The techniques used by the men involved in these attacks were extremely dangerous and we are fortunate that no-one was hurt.

"Offenders often believe that by committing crimes in different force areas they can escape detection and arrest, but police forces across the country do work together, regardless of boundaries. This case is an example of painstakingly piecing together huge amounts of complex evidence to bring people to justice.

“These men were driven by greed and a need to fund lavish lifestyles, expensive cars, holidays and large houses. They didn't' think about the danger of what they were doing and the potential that they could cause serious and significant injuries to others through their reckless actions."

Maria Corr senior crown prosecutor with the Crown Prosecution Service Mersey-Cheshire said: "The cash machines were often in residential areas and these men blew them up without a thought for the safety of the local community or the inconvenience caused to people who needed to get cash.

"This was an organised gang who thought of nothing but their own criminal greed. Their conviction should send a message out that people who get involved in this sort of activity will be caught.”