CRIMINAL brothers infamous in the region have been handed hefty prison sentences for their involvement in a £600,000 crime spree.

Brian Thexton and Ronald Thexton, who are originally from Witton Park, near Bishop Auckland, were jailed yesterday following a six month crime spree across Lancashire and South Cumbria.

The spree was not the first time the brothers had a brush with the law.

A nationwide operation snared the pair after they were part of a gang who struck at cashpoints nine times in the space of two years.

The brothers appeared in court where they admitted conspiracy to burgle commercial premises between January 1, 2005 and November 4, 2006.

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Ronald Thexton also confessed to a raid at Ingleton, North Yorkshire, and admitted, along with Brian Thexton to stealing a machine at Langley Moor, Durham.

They also accepted responsibility for raids on ATM machines in Langholm, Dumfries and Galloway, and a service station cashpoint near Burton, Lancashire.

The hole-in-the-wall gang stole tens of thousands of pounds from cash machines and the group of nine was jailed for a total of 22 years.

Following release, in 2019 the pair were back in the news when they disappeared from the scene of drug raids after the Lancashire and South Cumbria crime spree.

Police attended a total of 13 properties in Witton Park, Willington, Crook and Stanley Crook, and Morecambe, in Lancashire, involving 150 police officers.

Taking part in the 2019 raids was then Durham Police Chief Constable Mike Barton, who said: "They've always been on my radar since I've been here. There are eight or nine crime gangs that have always been on everybody's lips as people who commit crimes with impunity.

"We've found we've displaced their criminality to Northumbria, Cumbria and Lancashire and that's why we're working with two of those forces today to get them arrested."

A manhunt was launched by police following their disappearance and Crimestoppers offered a reward of up to £10,000 for information leading to their capture.

At the time, Detective Chief Inspector Becky Smith, of Lancashire Police, said: “Brian and Ronald Thexton are wanted in connection with a number of serious offences committed across north Lancashire and northern England, including high value commercial plant theft, stealing ATMs and cash in transit thefts, as well as burglaries at domestic properties.

“These men are believed to be dangerous and should not be approached."

After an extensive search, the pair were arrested in the Ribble Valley village of Gisburn, Lancashire, in July 2019.

Appearing together in the dock at Preston Crown Court, Judge Heather Lloyd warned the men: “All sentencing options are open – custody is almost inevitable.”

Yesterday the gang of accomplices were locked up for more than 28 years.

Judge Lloyd said: “It is certainly true that many, if not all of you, had some legitimate link to the north west but you hid behind that connection for a long time to justify your proximity to the commission of these offences.

“You travelled from your home in the North-East to commit the planned offences as part of the conspiracy, then you travelled back home again.

“The individual offences are no spur of the moment offending. I am satisfied that each of these was well planned and it is significant that the premises were remotely situated.

“Some were targeted in order to steal equipment or vehicles that could be used in future offending you committed.

“Other than the fact that two of you are brothers, I don’t know how you are connected to each other, but the spider’s web of your connection to each other is no coincidence.”

Brian Thexton, 43, who was responsible for three ATM thefts, joked with officers, “there will be plenty more holes in the wall before I retire,” when he was arrested.

He wrongly predicted, “I’ll be out in 12 months”.

Jailing him for nine and a half years, the judge said: “The only time the public is safe, is when you are in prison”.

Ronald Thexton, 36, of Park Road, Bishop Auckland was jailed for five years and 10 months.