A GANG of robbers who carried out an epidemic of planned and frightening armed robberies at shops, including targeting one Kenilworth store on three occasions, have been jailed.
One of the gang, Anthony Collier, who also took part in a terrifying raid at Hatton Country World in which it was threatened to hack off a woman’s fingers, was jailed for 18 years.
Collier, 31, of Murray Road, Coundon, Coventry, had pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to robbery, two separate charges of conspiracy to rob and one of dangerous driving.
Thomas Rawbone, 26, of Brinklow Road, Binley, and Darren Irwin, 34, of Delia Street, Tile Hill, admitted conspiring to rob the shops and were both jailed for 11 and-a-half years.
Prosecutor Mary Loram said the main conspiracy involved 13 robberies at shops in Warwickshire and Coventry, although the defendants had entered their pleas on the basis that each of them was not involved in every raid.
In July 2014 Collier took part in a terrifying raid at Hatton Country World with two other men who have already been jailed for six years and six years eight months.
It had closed for the day, but two women were still there when three men armed with a machete and a hammer burst in and forced them into a room where they ordered them to open the safes, threatening to cut one of the women’s fingers off.
The men fled with £5,000 from the safe, and although they were arrested there was not enough evidence to charge Collier – until DNA on a balaclava later linked him to the raid.
Miss Loram said the conspiracy involving all three began with a robbery at the One Stop shop in Caesar Road, Kenilworth, shortly before it was due to close at 10pm on December 22, 2014.
Two men burst in wearing masks and dark clothing, one of them armed with a crowbar, and staff and customers were ordered to a storeroom.
The safe was opened and £296 in cash and 180 packets of cigarettes worth £5,840 were taken before the raiders fled.
On January 8 last year all three men staged a raid at the Tesco Express store in Kenilworth, this time armed with a machete.
Two members of staff were threatened and ordered to hold carrier bags while the robbers emptied the tills into them, and then to open the safe. The raiders escaped with a total of £2,900 in cash and cigarettes worth a further £2,000.
They returned to the One Stop on February 3, where the same two staff members were working who had been victims of the first raid.
Two men, one them Rawbone, burst in with a crowbar, ordered the employees into the storeroom and took £329 in cash and £3,000 worth of cigarettes.
On April 2 the trio returned for a third robbery at the Caesar Road store. This time they escaped with £305 in cash and cigarettes worth £5,222 – but by then concerned managers had planted tracker devices among the cigarettes.
As a result the movement of the haul could be followed, and it was found by the police in a pillow case with Rawbone’s DNA on it in the abandoned get-away car later that evening.
Jailing the three men, Judge Richard Griffith-Jones told them: “You three are part of a professional, planned and ruthless conspiracy to take advantage of the ease with which these soft targets can be hit. What you did was frightening. It was designed to be frightening.