Thieves who caused 'despicable' major power cut to Margate hospital are jailed

Contributed by editor on Nov 09, 2019 - 09:41 AM


The group of thieves responsible for causing a major power outage at a busy hospital in Margate have been jailed.


During the evening of 20 February 2019, Kent Police were made aware that a major incident had been declared by staff at the Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother (QEQM) Hospital in Margate as there had been a power outage and it was causing significant concerns.

Patients in the A&E and ICU departments who needed electrical machines for life-support and drug administration saw their power provided by emergency battery power.

Patients needing the A&E departments had to be diverted to other hospitals around east Kent, causing a knock-on impact to ambulances which were having to travel further away, making them unable to attend emergency calls for longer periods of time.

The outage was first recorded by the hospital at 7.15pm and was not restored until around 10.45pm.

It was discovered that the power outage was caused by two damaged electrical cables connecting a large generator in the grounds of the hospital. The cabling had been cut through.

An investigation into the damaged cables was launched by the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate.

CCTV footage was caught of the moments before the power outage and showed five men wearing high-visibility jackets and hard hats pull up in a van and cut the cables with bolt croppers causing a small explosion.

The explosion caused the five men to flee the scene.

Information about the vehicle used was shared with other forces and the following day the van was found by officers from West Midlands Police, leading to four arrests.

The fifth thief was arrested in London on 3 April.

All five men were charged with conspiring to steal and also criminal damage with intent to endanger life.

At Birmingham Crown Court, all charges were admitted by the men, except the man arrested in London who denied he had intended to endanger lives by his actions.

Following a trial he was found not guilty on 6 October.

The five were all jailed for a total of more than 28 years.

Senior investigating officer Detective Inspector Kristian Eberlein from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: ‘It’s believed all of this was done to make money from the metals found in cabling.

‘The selfish acts of these five men could have meant the difference between life and death for patients reliant on the life-saving treatment at the hospital.

‘In the hospital, staff work so hard day in, day out, to keep people alive and ensure they are brought back to good health and given the best chance of life.

To then have to work in such trying conditions with emergency power supplies, brought on by the despicable and deliberate acts of these men, makes the work of the hospital staff all the more commendable.

‘There can be no justification for the group’s actions, it is obvious the theft would risk patients’ lives, and I hope the realisation of the severity of what they did stays with them.

‘These criminals targeted a hospital and to suggest it is one of the lowest and most despicable acts I’ve seen doesn’t begin to describe it.’

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