Four men have admitted breaking into hospitals during the coronavirus crisis. They stole gas canisters, which could have led to operations being cancelled.
The Norfolk-based gang targeted hospitals in Stockport, Manchester and County Durham. The spree was well planned and happened over the weekend of March 21-23, the day before the national lockdown was imposed.
Oliver Zak Henry Evans, 22, of Sandy Lane North, Wallington; Harry David Bradley Goodrum, 23, of Norwich Road, Dereham; Jake Alexander Roberts, 23, of Chestnut Hill, Norwich; and Wayne John Grady, 41, of no fixed address, admitted a single charge of conspiracy to commit burglary.
Judge Paul Watson QC, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, told them it was an extremely serious offence and they should expect substantial jail terms when he sentences them on June 2.
He remanded them in custody in the meantime.
The gang first broke into Stepping Hill Hospital in Stockport and stole two nitrous oxide canisters, used for pain relief.
They then drove to Willington Hospital in Manchester and took another eight - some containing "gas and air", which is often used in childbirth. Others held nitrous oxide.
The gang travelled to the North East and smashed their way into a storage unit at Chester-le-Street Community Hospital to steal more canisters in the early hours of the next day.
They committed similar attacks on hospitals in Bishop Auckland and Darlington, taking 14 canisters from the latter, and driving off with them in the back of a BMW fitted with stolen number plates.
Police in Lincolnshire stopped a van the gang were using at a service station and found 29 gas canisters in the back.
Two men were arrested in the van and two others in the BMW were stopped by police in North Yorkshire.
It is understood that the theft of the pain relief gas could have forced hospital bosses to cancel operations, and the damage to storage units could have compromised oxygen supplies needed by Covid-19 patients.
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