TWO “utterly evil” robbers who tied up their vulnerable victims in a series of raids across Bradford and even stripped them to take photos to blackmail their relatives have been jailed for a total of 54 years.
Najeeb Aslam and Hasnain Raja broke into the homes with weapons including imitation guns and hammers before threatening to kill the terrified occupants or their children if they did not hand over money and jewellery.
In the most shocking case they tied up a mother in front of her two young children and after pulling down her jeans took photographs of her half-naked body on her mobile phone, Bradford Crown Court heard.
After the robbery in January this year they contacted her husband at work and threatened to publish the photos if he did not hand over thousands of pounds, as well as telling him a contract had been taken out on his life.
Although the robbers told him not to contact the police, the husband reported what had happened and West Yorkshire detectives were able to uncover the full extent of their crimes in what a judge described as an investigation “of the highest order”.
Raja, 21, of Arncliffe Terrace, Bradford, and Aslam, 28, of Hudson Crescent, Bradford, carried out the first of their “wicked and determined” robberies in November.
After targeting the house of a recently-widowed woman in her 50s in the early hours of November 4, they threatened her teenage nephew with a gun and a screwdriver before tying him up naked with a sock in his mouth.
After demanding jewellery they threatened to cut his toes off one by one, as well as threatening the woman with a knife and putting a gun to her temple.
David Gordon, prosecuting, said they then took the aunt’s phone and demanded to know the password before taking pictures of the teenage boy in his “naked, trussed-up state”.
Weeks later the traumatised boy got a call from one of the defendants saying the photographs would be published online if he did not pay £10,000.
Mr Gordon said: “They said if the money was not forthcoming they would come for him and go after his family.
The caller suggested he rob his family if necessary to raise the funds.”
The court heard details of two other robberies, both of which saw the occupants tied up after Raja and Aslam tricked their way into their homes, once by pretending to be from Yorkshire Water and later by impersonating an official from the electricity board. They were able to make off with thousands of pounds worth of jewellery and other items.
And in November and December last year, they made a number of hoax calls to police about a property in Bradford belonging to the niece of one of the previous victims, as well as pretending to be police officers in a failed attempt to get into the property.
Mr Gordon said: “It is not clear what the purpose of these calls was but it may be they were planning an attack and were testing police response times.”
On December 22, the woman looked out of her window to see the two men attempting to break into her house through the window, but when they saw her they ran off.
Sentencing the pair to 27 years each in prison, Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC said it was “a matter for grave concern” that neither of the two men offered any real explanation.
He was told the pair had admitted 11 counts of robbery, blackmail, possession of an imitation firearm and attempted robbery at an earlier hearing, and had asked for three other offences, including another robbery, to be taken into consideration.
As he handed down his sentence, the judge said: I know what my duty is to deal with evil people. Because you will do this again if not punished to the full extent of the law.”
Speaking after the hearing, Det Supt Scott Wood of West Yorkshire Police said: “This was a terrifying experience for their victims.”