IT’S the hour before dawn and a convoy of police vans are winding their way through the deserted roads of Oxfordshire.

Unbeknown to them, several suspects are about to get a very rude awakening.


For us, the day had started three hours before, 4am, at Thames Valley Police’s major incidents base in Upper Heyford.

FULL STORY: Police raid Oxfordshire homes in search for ATM ram-raiders

The scale of what was about to unfold was made clear by the sheer wall of black-clad officers being briefed on the day’s events.

Kitted out and ready to go, the group was split up depending on which of the 10 different locations they would be targeting.

Then the slow departure, still under cover of darkness, began.

We re-convene at an incongruous service station just beyond the target and switch vehicles - moving in with the officers where the mood is focussed.

It’s dawn now and the sky is beginning to slowly brighten.

It’s only a mile down the road and we’re beginning to attract some attention among the morning commuters.

Suddenly we veer off and everyone is on the move, piling out of the van and running down a rural path.

Shouts of ‘police’ accompany the prising open of doors and smashing of windows.

There’s some confusion as officers search caravans and others move further on into the woods, in case anyone is trying to make a run for it.

A snarling dog is produced and barks at anything that moves while his handler clings to the leash to restrain him.

The arrest is made up at the house and officers are now swarming inside it.

You can spot them peering into corners, illuminated by a weak overhead light or by flicking on their torches.

The site is a maze with rubbish and vehicles piled up so it’s a daunting task but the officers have been briefed that they shouldn’t leave any stone unturned.

As the situation slowly diffuses, the officers on site relax and swap war stories while finishing up with their jobs.

Some are bedding in for the day and they’ve been joined by colleagues from the Environment Agency, decked in high visibility jackets.

It’s a show of force being repeated across four counties, one intended to demonstrate that crime doesn’t pay.

But, as the drama of the raid fizzles out, its repercussions are yet to be seen.