An uncle and his nephews ran a “family business” stealing vans from all over Bolton before cutting them up in “chop shops”, a court heard.

The three men are accused of leading a gang that stole, chopped up and sold on at least £600,000 worth of vans, from across Bolton, Bury and beyond, most of them stolen from small businesspeople.

Bolton Crown Court heard how the this “team” is believed to operated at various locations around the borough.

Prosecutor Henry Blackshaw said: “The police investigation arises out of the discovery of three so-called ‘chop shops.’”

He added: “The prosecution’s care is that all three of them were operated by this team of people.”

The Bolton News: The trial opened at Bolton Crown CourtThe trial opened at Bolton Crown Court (Image: Newsquest)

Thomas Jackson, 60, and his nephews 32-year-old Josh Jackson and 27-year-old Brad Jackson all looked on from the dock as Mr Blackshaw set out his case.

Mr Blackshaw claimed that the trio were all involved in the “business” of running the chop shops.

He said: “When I say business, this is what it was, a family business albeit an illegal one unlike the other family businesses we may be familiar with.”

Mr Blackshaw told the court how the Jacksons had been involved in setting up three chop shops, one after the other.

The first had been running at Chequerbent Works in Westhoughton from at least September 2019 until police discovered it in March 2020.

Undeterred, Mr Blackshaw said that the family gang then set up a second chop shop in Farnworth in September 2020, which was discovered in November that same year.

This too was discovered by police and Mr Blackshaw said that then gang then opened a third chop shop at Halliwell Mill in Halliwell in November 2021.

The final chop shop was discovered by police in February 2021.

Mr Blackshaw told the jury that the Jacksons had been making “quite tidy sums of money” from their crimes but that the thefts had caused “tremendous loss” to the vans’ rightful owners.

He said that the police investigation found evidence of at least 42 vehicles having been stolen coming to a value of around £600,000.

But he said that the police had only been able to find evidence of more recent thefts and that the far more were likely to have been taken over a longer period.

Mr Blackshaw claimed that the gang started by targeting Ford Transit vans before moving on to Mercedes Sprinter vans later on in 2020.

He said: “It was of course Covid times and it seems there was an enhanced value on the black market for Mercedes van parts.”

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He added: “So this was a family business that involved the theft and handling of these vehicles.”

Mr Blackshaw claimed that Thomas Jackson, the uncle, was a senior member of the family business while nephew Josh was involved in running the yards, especially the Farnworth yard.

Brad Jackson, Mr Blackshaw said, was “the person who fronted up the purchase of the land that was the be the second chop shop, this Farnworth chop shop".

Thomas Jackson, of St Gregory’s Close, Josh Jackson, of Wildman Lane and Brad Jackson, of Barratt Avenue, Kearsley, all deny conspiracy to steal a motor vehicle and conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

The trial continues.