Pair sentenced after spate of haulage yard arsons
Dated: 13 Apr 2007
Two men who firebombed a series of lorry haulage yards across the region causing millions of pounds worth of damage have been jailed for a total of 15 years.
Thomas Mackell, 55, of St John's Court, Newcastle, was found guilty of targeting six compounds in a series of attacks between 2001 and 2002 and was jailed for 12 years. John Loxley, 32, also from St John's Court, was found guilty of being involved in the attack of one of the yards and was jailed for three years.
The attacks for which the pair have been jailed form part of a wider series of arsons to haulage companies across the north east that were subject of a long-running Northumbria Police investigation called Operation Chariot.
When destruction of vehicles, the loss of earnings for staff and the lost business brought about by these attacks was taken into account, the total damage was estimated at around £18million.
The operation attracted nationwide publicity when a reconstruction was featured on BBC's Crimewatch programme.
The first attack was at City Works depot, Heaton, Newcastle on June 14, 2001
The others were:
Owen Pugh Ltd, Dudley, North Tyneside, on September 8 , 2001
New County Road Surfacing, Birtley, on October 21, 2001
Union Trucks, Camperdown, North Tyneside, on November 3, 2001
Be Modern Ltd, Bede Industrial Estate, Jarrow, on November 4, 2001
City Works depot, Condercum Road, Newcastle, on March 4, 2002
Detective Chief Inspector Winton Keenan said: " This was one of the force's longest running and most geographically diverse investigations. Often a crime scene covers a relatively small area but this enquiry had crime scenes across the whole area of the force and beyond."DNA evidence was found at four separate scenes which linked Mackell to the crimes. Traces were found on fuses he had made by binding matches together which he had then thrown into the cabs to start the blazes. The DNA match showed it was the highest possible match and the possibility it wasn't him was a billion to one.
Loxley's DNA was found on the top of a bottle used to squirt accelerant into the cabs at the Be Modern attack.
DCI Keenan said: " One of the most unusual aspects of this enquiry is that we have never been able to prove a motive for the attacks. Often incidents such as this will be driven by revenge or serious organised crime but the motive here remains an unanswered question.
" This investigation clearly shows the benefits of modern crime detection methods and the value of DNA evidence. People should be reassured that just because arrests don't happen instantly, it does not mean we aren't investigating every possible avenue as we work to solve a crime.
" There have been officers working on this enquiry for the past five years and dedicated police work together with scientific support from the Forensic Science Service around the DNA evidence has proved crucial.
" Mackell and Loxley are clearly dangerous criminals and the sentences should serve as a warning to others that Northumbria Police will keep working until we can bring those responsible for crimes to justice."
Senior Forensic Scientist Val Tomlinson, from the Forensic Science Service, said: " The DNA we recovered really did make all the difference to this investigation.
" We used Low Copy Number DNA to get a full profile for two individuals from a bottle and masking tape found at the scene. These profiles, which could not have been recovered using older DNA methods, proved to be a match with Loxley and Mackell and gave the police the vital lead they needed.
" Improvements in forensic technology, a lot of painstaking work and a close working relationship with the police have all helped to bring these two dangerous offenders to justice."