THREE North-East men have been jailed for their roles in a failed night-time bid to snatch a cash machine which was ripped from the wall of a shop.

Stephen Cliff, Jonathon Mackenzie and Mark Cooke travelled to West Cumbria to carry out reconnaissance, before the Spar store on Richmond Hill Road, Whitehaven, was ram-raided just after 2am on November 27 last year.

Residents heard a “loud bang” as a stolen JCB smashed into the wall, and watched as it reversed with an ATM – containing more than £71,000 – on straps.

This was then dropped on to a flat-bed truck which had also been pinched, and driven away in convoy with a Jeep.

A police officer pursued the tipper in an unmarked car on dark and winding roads.

Prosecutor Brendan Burke told Carlisle Crown Court yesterday: “There were two men on the back, pulling parts off the ATM – which must have been accessible because of the damage that was done – and throwing them at the police car.”

Twice the tipper was stopped suddenly and reversed at the police car, which was forced to take avoiding action.

After the truck was deliberately crashed into a bridge at Moresby the suspects fled the scene, blocking the road and forcing police to abandon the chase. The cash machine was left behind but damaged beyond repair, costing £5,500 to replace.

The court heard how, as the police investigation gathered pace, Mackenzie, 32, of Otterburn Close, Darlington, 37-year-old getaway driver Cooke, of Pearson Street, Spennymoor, and Cliff, 34, of River Walk, West Auckland, were arrested hours after the incident.

DNA linked Cliff to the stolen tipper, and to the mouthpiece of a walkie-talkie found in a gas van used in Cumbria for legitimate employment by MacKenzie and Cooke.All three later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle.

Cooke also admitted cannabis production, while Mackenzie admitted possessing the class B drug and had also been involved in a separate burglary at a Lancashire betting shop.

Mark Styles, for heavily-convicted Mackenzie, said he had “drifted into crime” amid personal problems. More recently there was drug use and a debt, and Mr Styles said of the father-of-two: “He has been prevailed upon by others to get involved in this offence.”

Graeme Cook, for Cooke, said he had been working in Cumbria for several weeks before the ram-road as a well-paid gas service mains fitter.

He was supported in court by a partner, and had children and step-children.

“Through his foolish behaviour last November he is going to lose them for some time,” said Mr Cook. “Why he got involved in this is completely beyond him.”

Giving mitigation for Cliff, also a father and stepfather, Ian West said: “The principal feature of mitigation in his case is his guilty plea. I simply invite Your Honour to pass the shortest sentence commensurate with your public duty.”

All three were jailed by Judge James Adkin: Mackenzie for 49 months, Cliff for 51 months and Cooke for 39 months.

The judge said “The offending bore many of the hallmarks of professional criminality.”