FIVE men from Little Hulton have been jailed as part of a criminal gang who made off with more than £160,000.

A sixth man, a security guard who acted as the ‘inside man’ was also jailed following a series of cash-in-transit heists.

Today, the men were jailed at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square for a combined total of more than 75 years for conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

In total, £168,000 in cash was stolen in the robberies.

READ MORE: CCTV shows the terrifying armed robberies by a criminal gang ­— and the crash which led police to their door

Operation Riptide was a GMP investigation into a number of ATM robberies in Greater Manchester between September 2017 and April 2018.

The robberies were carried out by a sophisticated organised crime group who meticulously planned the violent crimes well in advance.

The offenders used stolen vehicles with false number plates to approach cash-in-transit vans while guards were restocking cash machines at banks.

They concealed their identities with ski masks, balaclavas and gloves, and threatened the guards with firearms and machetes before making off with the cash.

At 1.10am on Thursday, September 7, 2017, the gang carried out an armed robbery at Santander Bank in Walkden.

A G4S employee, Thomas Keane, was restocking the ATM at the bank with his colleague when they were approached by three masked men and threatened with a sawn off shotgun, a handgun and a machete.

The guards were forced to the floor, and the men made off with the stolen cash in a red Mini Cooper.

Keane, the cash courier employed by G4S, at first appeared to be a victim of the robbery. The court heard how he had in fact played a key role in the conspiracy. He supplied information to his criminal associates regarding cash delivery times and locations, and in return he received a cut of the stolen cash.

The conspiracy began to unravel in the moments after the offenders robbed a cash-in-transit vehicle outside the Santander bank in Ramsbottom.

The driver of the getaway car lost control fleeing the scene. The stolen red Ford Focus collided with a Range Rover and other parked cars on Bolton Street West. The airbags were deployed on the getaway car, and the offenders were forced to flee on foot.

The men were seen by witnesses running from the vehicle, carrying the stolen cash cassettes. Two of the offenders were seen hiding under a parked car and, following forensic testing by police, fingerprints on this vehicle were identified as belonging to Lucas Dodd and David Oxton.

The remainder of the group, Jack Pennington, Neil Callaghan and Scott Holmes, were identified by CCTV footage seized from the robberies, witness accounts, vehicle enquiries and evidence gathered from phone records.

Following analysis of phone records, it was shown that Keane was in regular and significant contact with the criminal gang, including on the days the armed robberies took place.

Detective Sergeant Rick Castley, from GMP’s Serious Organised Crime Group, said: “The lengthy sentences handed down today reflect the very serious nature of the crimes committed by this group.

“The robberies were particularly violent in nature, and the men gave no thought to the honest and hard-working security guards and bank staff who were caught up in the incidents.

“The robberies were pre-planned and carefully considered, but they were clumsily executed and the gang left a trail of evidence linking them to the robberies.

“Keane abused his position of trust at G4S and lined his pockets through deceit, but now he must face the next 20 years in jail facing the consequences of his actions.

“During this investigation we worked closely with G4S and they have been incredibly helpful in assisting with our enquiries throughout.

“Today’s result is thanks to the efforts of our officers who carried out extensive enquiries and sifted through huge amounts of mobile phone data and records to gather the damning evidence which has secured the prosecutions and taken this group of dangerous men off the streets.”

Sarah Staff, Head of SaferCash, British Security Industry Association said: “Throughout this case SaferCash worked in partnership with the investigation team and G4S and the outcome of this case highlights the benefits of collaboration.

“The level of violence being used in the execution of these crimes has a far reaching effect for the guards involved.

“The comprehensive investigation run by GMP Serious Organised Crime Group has dismantled a well organised gang and the high sentencing reflects the serious nature of this conspiracy.

“The industry strongly believes that the length of sentencing will act as a deterrent to put a halt to these types of attacks.”

The following men were jailed today:

Thomas Keane, 52, of Green Lane, Leigh has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.

Jack Pennington, 28, of Kenyon Way, Little Hulton has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.

David Oxton, 34, of Longshaw Drive, Little Hulton has been sentenced to 14 years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.

Neil Callaghan, 35, of New Lester Way, Little Hulton has been sentenced to 12 and a half years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery and given a further 12 months for an unrelated blackmail offence.

Scott Holmes, 32, of Cleggs Lane, Little Hulton has been sentenced to 10 and a half years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.

Lucas Dodd, 19, of Dovecote Lane, Little Hulton has been sentenced to four and a half years in prison for conspiracy to commit robbery.