THREE men who were part of a gang which robbed a lorry driver at a business park of £1.3million of gaming laptops have each been jailed for five years.

Preston Crown Court heard Martin Vosecky was attacked as he slept in his cab in Altham and forced to wear a pillow case over his head.

The victim, who speaks little English, was later stripped to his boxer shorts, bundled into the boot of a car and dumped on a track at Saddleworth, near to junction 22 of the M62, where he thought he would be killed.

His vehicle was also torched by members of the cross-border gang, who were said to be 11-strong.

Prosecuting, Charles Brown said 2,300 laptops were taken in the ‘planned and sophisticated robbery’ and only £240,000 worth has been recovered.

Lewis Knight, Kirk Thompson, Steven James Morris and Lee Wakefield all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal.

Mr Brown said: “The conspiracy involved the theft of a large number of high-value laptops from a lorry which had delivered them from the continent to a processing centre in Altham.

“On the lorry were 33 pallets, containing 2,300 laptops valued at over £1.3million.

“It arrived day early. It was due on January 5, 2017 but arrived on January 4.

“It couldn’t be unloaded so the driver parked up outside the delivery address of Exertis in Altham.

“The driver knew very little English. He didn’t understand the warning given to him by the local security guard that parking outside was not very safe.

“He went to sleep in the cab thinking his vehicle was locked up and secure.

“He was woken at four in the morning by men in balaclavas in his cab.

“They put a pillow case over his head. They kept him prisoner in his cab.

“The vehicle was then driven off to a second site but the robbers obviously weren’t very familiar with how to operate a HGV because the victim was made to change gear.”

The court heard the lorry was driven to a car park at the Link 665 Business Park in Haslingden, where 11 people unloaded the laptops into a second waiting DAF truck. Number plate recognition cameras traced that lorry as from Rotherham.

Phone analysis placed Knight, Thompson, Morris and Wakefield in Haslingden at the time the laptops were being transferred.

Mr Brown said the prosecution could not prove that Knight, Morris, Thompson or Wakefield were directly involved in the kidnapping or arson. And he said the prosecution were not clear how the defendants and their other conspirators knew the lorry was parked up overnight in Altham but he said it was ‘not a spontaneous, spur of the moment operation’.

Alexander Menary, defending, said the four men performed a limited under direction and they were not the masterminds.

While Knight, 28, of Leeds Road, Castleford, Morris, 30, of Parkways Close, Leeds, Thompson, 32, of East Grange Road, Leeds, were all jailed, Wakefield, 33, of Far Fold Lane, Leeds, failed to attend court. A warrant has been issued for his arrest.

Speaking after the hearing, Det Sgt Melissa Kelly, said: “I am pleased with today’s result given the level of planning and sheer violence that was used in this incident.

“The victim was left in a foreign country without his clothes, belongings or vehicle and made his way to a slip road where he flagged down a passing motorist, who kindly assisted him and contacted the police.

“The impact on the driver cannot be underestimated; he has had to stop working as a lorry driver and returned to the Czech Republic. He did however travel to the UK to give evidence but was thankfully saved from having to relive what happened when the defendants pleaded guilty.

“My thanks goes to him, the member of the public who helped and also my team who worked tirelessly on this complex investigation which spanned locations in the north of England.”