TRAVELLERS who caused more than £300,000 worth of damage to the old Thwaites brewery have been jailed for eight years in total.

Thomas Ward, 44, and John Ward, 34, both from Leigh, were jailed for four years and three months and three years and nine months at Burnley Crown Court today.

Police are still hunting for 32-year-old Patrick Ward, also from Leigh, who was found guilty of conspiracy to commit burglary and conspiracy to commit criminal damage but is still on the run.

A 17-year-old boy, convicted of the same offences, will be dealt with later by a youth court.

An inquiry was launched when up to 100 travellers, thought to be on their way to Appleby Fair on May 26 last year, descended on the Penny Street site and set up an encampment.

Police say despite requests to move on by Thwaites' security, the group refused and evicted a guard from the site.

Some of the group – led by the Wards – looted office buildings, stealing televisions, computer equipment, high value alcohol and electrical copper wiring from throughout the entire site.

The travellers remained at the site until they were moved on by police escort the following Monday.

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Speaking after the case, Supt Andrea Barrow said: "We promised we would seek justice for Thwaites, their staff and the public and we have carried out a thorough investigation which has led to today's positive result.

"When Thwaites’ staff entered their place of work on Monday, May 28, they were met with scenes of utter devastation.

"Not only had lots of equipment and alcohol been stolen, the power had been cut, windows had been smashed, office furniture damaged, food had been thrown over floors and a water cooler had been tipped over causing flooding.

"Employee’s personal possessions had literally been scattered around and 1,700 pints of beer had to be thrown away.

“It was extremely upsetting for Thwaites staff who had had been due to end over 200 years of brewing at this particular site around 12 weeks later, however, they had to make the tough decision to not brew there again, such was the risk of contamination.

“The behaviour of all the people involved in the damage and destruction was utterly deplorable.

"Thomas Ward not only had the audacity to force employees off company property, he then tried to coerce them into paying thousands of pounds for the travellers to leave. Thankfully no money was handed over in spite of his demands."