A PROFESSIONAL raider who blew up part of a York petrol station while employees inside feared for their lives has been jailed for 11 years.

George Tunney, 24, was part of a York-based gang that toured Yorkshire and the Midlands exploding ATMs by night as they tried to grab the cash inside them.

On January 10, 2020, they stole £57,000 from the Co-op service station on Great North Way, Nether Poppleton by blowing up its ATM, said Katherine Robinson, prosecuting.

On seeing them arrive the two staff on duty locked themselves into the service station's building and alerted police, fearing that the sparks set off by the gang's angle grinder would ignite petrol on the site.

Arrested and released on bail, Tunney exploded other ATMs in Yorkshire and Leicestershire in March 2020 before he and two gang members Frederick Levi Squires, 38, and a 16-year-old were arrested following a 130 mph chase round the York Outer Ring Road.

In January, Tunney cached the gang's then vehicle, a Golf, in a York garage, between raids in Doncaster, Grantham, Nottinghamshire and York.

On one occasion, when a neighbour parked his car obstructing the garage, Tunney repeatedly pressed him to move his car so that the gang could go out on a night's ATM raiding.

The gang caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage as they pumped gas into ATMs and ignited it to blow their fronts off and if they succeeded, smashed their way into the building to get at the cash inside the machines from the rear.

Jailing Tunney for 11 years, the Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris, told York Crown Court the ATM raids were "professional" and after viewing CCTV of the March raids, said they were carried out in military style with precision.

"It was slick," he said.

Tunney, of Kirkhouse Green. Doncaster, pleaded guilty to two charges of conspiracy to cause explosion, two conspiracies to burgle, and one offence each of theft of cash, handling a stolen Golf and aggravated vehicle taking.

Altogether, the conspiracies included six raids in January of which only the York one was successful and three raids in March.

In addition to the 11-year prison sentence, he was banned from driving for eight years. The prosecution will apply later this year for his assets to be confiscated and him to be made subject to a serious crime prevention order.

For him, Catherine Silverton said he was unsophisticated and had not been the leader of the gang.

He was too scared to reveal who the other gang members were for fear of reprisals on himself and his family.

The January raids had been "botched," she said.

"He certainly learnt from his earlier mistakes," said the judge.

Tunney had spent a year in prison awaiting sentence because he had been recalled to finish an earlier sentence, said Miss Silverton.

Squires, 38, of Castleacre Road, Swaffham, Norfolk, was jailed for eight and a half years and the 16-year-old from Doncaster, who cannot be named for legal reasons, for two years for the March raids last November.