Jail for gang who stole rail cables in Church Lawford

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A GANG of thieves who cost Network Rail over £450,000 targeted rail track outside Church Lawford before being hunted down by a police helicopter.

The gang of eight struck in the hours of darkness between November 2011 and May 2012 in isolated parts of the countryside across the midlands.

They were jailed for a total of 23 years last week at Birmingham Crown Court following a major investigation by British Transport Police.

They all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal railway cable from the railway network.

The gang included Jan Trofin, 36, of Parkhill Road, Birmingham; Alexandru Tofaleanu, 29, of Parkhill Road, Birmingham; Mihai Mihart, 26, of Parkhill Road, Birmingham, Stefanel Ruset, 19, of Kentish Road, Birmingham; Christian Toader, 24, of Selsey Road, Birmingham; Mihai Binta, 27, of Parkhill Road, Birmingham; Florin Cojocaru, 19 of Parkhill Road, Birmingham; and Costinel Mijloc, 24, of Highfield Road, Birmingham.

Between 3 November 2011 and 24 May 2012, the gang struck at least 22 times, in the hours of darkness, stealing a total of about 6,000 metres of cable.

The thieves cost Network Rail between £450,000 and £500,000 to replace and repair the cables and also fines incurred to train operators as a result of the delays and disruption caused.

Shortly before midnight on February 5, officers from British Transport Police encountered two men on the railway line near Paxford in the Cotswolds.

The men fled through fields and into dense wooded area with officers chasing on foot.

A police dog handler was called to the scene and, with the support of a helicopter, the men were found hiding within the wooded area.

Officers on the ground were guided by the helicopter crew to the spot where the men had gone to ground within the woods.

Officers arrested two men - Ruset and Marius Stana.

The latter is believed to have fled to his native Romania while on bail and is currently wanted by police in connection with the conspiracy.