Two men who used explosives in a string of successful and attempted ATM thefts across London and Essex have been jailed.

Anthony Crowley, 37, and James Whitlock, 36, targeted eight cash machines in various locations - including in Brentwood, Plaistow, Woodford Green and Coldharbour.

The crimes took place between November 27, 2019 and January 14 last year.

They used gas and fuel - in one case throwing a petrol bomb - to steal from ATMs, swiping almost £50,000 in cash and causing around £15,000 in damage.

Temporary Det Supt Lee Morton from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “Anthony Crowley and James Whitlock went to extreme lengths to steal money from cash machines.

“The methods they used posed a serious risk to the welfare of people living and working near to the ATMs they targeted and it was fortunate no-one was injured.”

Using forensics, phone work and information from automatic number plate recognition cameras, Essex Police detectives were able to link the pair to, or place them at, the scenes of the offences.

Police also found items which could link the men to offences during warrant searches at addresses in Wickford, Walton-on-the-Naze and Hornchurch, as well as vehicles.

After they were both arrested on January 16 last year, Crowley, of no fixed address, was later charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, possession of a Class A drug, and handling stolen goods.

Whitlock, of Alfred Terrace in Walton-on-the-Naze, was charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, handling stolen goods, and failing to comply with a serious crime prevention order.

They both admitted the charges and were sentenced at Basildon Crown Court yesterday (January 17).

Crowley was jailed for 14 and a half years and Whitlock was given a 15-year sentence.

Det Supt Morton added: "Their actions, driven by greed and their own financial gain, were reckless - even throwing a petrol bomb at one cash machine they had failed to get into.

"We carried out an exhaustive investigation which carefully pieced together evidence from various sources to build this case and I’m pleased we have been able to bring these men to justice.

"They will now face a significant amount of time behind bars as a result."