A ROTHERWICK man is accused of being the mastermind behind an organised crime group that attempted to blow up 14 ATMs across three counties.

David "Paddy" Hughes was allegedly at the helm of the group which 'roamed' Hampshire at night and stole a range of cars, motorbikes, garden machinery and even a dog.

He and his crew are also said to have used crowbars, oxyacetylene gas and petrol to blow up ATMs and steal tens of thousands of pounds in cash.

They are charged with conspiring to hit fourteen machines over a seven month period between 2019 and 2020, in Mortimer, Southampton, Farnham, Brockenhurst, Eastleigh, Bournemouth and others.

WATCH: Moment 'Hampshire gang blow up ATM'

The man, of Street End Close, had "criminal pedigree" and was the "leading player" in a gang that committed a series of "audacious attacks", according to prosecutor Mark Ruffell.

Opening his case at Winchester Crown Court on Friday afternoon, he told the jury: "What I am about to describe to you, for some of you will be astonishing, a real eye opener.

"For others it will confirm your worst fears about the world that we live in.

"The reason why is that it is all about organised crime here in Hampshire.

"It is all about how Paddy Hughes is a central player in organised crime in Hampshire."

The prosecutor went on to say that the 30-year-old's OCG has "tenatacles and connections [which] cover Hampshire, Surrey and Berkshire".

His "network of criminal contacts" allegedly allowed him to quickly find suitors to the goods he and his co-conspirators are said to have stolen.

Mr Ruffell added that Mr Hughes did not answer any questions in police interview, and has not provided a defence statement, but is "putting us to proof".

"What it means is that we have not the first inkling of what innocent explanation he is going to come up with for all the evidence that you are about to hear about.

"You might think that if he was innocent and he thought that we had made a huge mistake from start to finish about his involvement, then he would have protested his innocence at the Police Station or through his lawyers in a defence statement and said why we were wrong. Instead, just silence."

The jury were told about one incident where a Land Rover Defender was stolen from a business park in Fareham in April 2019. It was attached to a trailer containing three quad bikes and power tools.

The Crown say that police followed a tracker fitted to the vehicle and found it parked at Winchfield station, ten minutes from Rotherwick, near a van insured by Mr Hughes.

Basingstoke Gazette:

Police searched the van and found one of the quad bikes, impounded it and on the same day, insurane of the van was removed.

Mr Ruffell continued: "CCTV was obtained from the car park at Winchfield Station.

"It shows the driver of the van that was insured to Paddy Hughes and containing stolen items, got into a white car.

"Coincidentally, in the middle of 2019, Paddy Hughes regularly drove a white Audi A4 car."

Four men have pleaded guilty to offences involving the defendant, Mr Ruffell said.

The trial continues, with Mr Ruffell to finish his opening statement on Monday. Mr Hughes denies conspiracy to cause an explosion, conspiracy to burgle, and two counts of conspiracy to steal.

The trial is expected to last four weeks.