A PROFESSIONAL gang of robbers whose campaign of raids was captured on closed-circuit television cameras across West Yorkshire have been jailed for a total of 42 years.
A court was shown footage of the four violent thugs terrorising shop assistants and security guards with guns, knives, swords and baseball bats during a crime spree worth more than £200,000. Moving statements were read out at Leeds Crown Court on behalf of victims caught up in the attacks describing how their lives had been devastated as a result their ordeals.
Jason Pitter, prosecuting, told the court: “The offences relate to a campaign of armed robberies of commercial premises and cash-in-transit vehicles. At each of the premises there was used, at the very least, the threat of extreme violence.
“It is clear that part of the offending was to subject the victims to real terror for the purpose of obtaining the bounty and making good their escape. These were professionally carried out offences and bore the hallmarks of careful planning, preparation and execution.”
The four gang members, all from Leeds, sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery were: Joe Howey, 24, of Fenton Place, Middleton, jailed for six years; James Beeston, 23, Temple View Road, East End Park, jailed for 10 years; Jason Vollans, 29, of Folly Lane, Beeston, jailed for 14 years and Benjamin Sidlow, 26, of East Grange Drive, Belle Isle, jailed for 12 years.
Judge Geoffrey Marson, QC, said: “The psychological impact on some of these victims has been profound.
“Decent hard working people have had their lives blighted by these offences. For some of them life will never be the same again.”
After the hearing, Det Chief Inspector Lisa Atkinson, of West Yorkshire Police, said: “These offences were based purely on greed for money to fund a lifestyle that none of them could legitimately afford. A painstaking investigation by detectives uncovered the evidence that led to their downfall.”
The court was shown “extraordinary” footage of the moment gang members became trapped during a £100,000 raid on a jewellers. Three members smashed their way into the Gold Shop, Wakefield Road, Bradford, as staff ran to the safety of a back room.
Armed with baseball bats, a sledge hammer and machete they then smashed glass displays before realising they were locked inside when the security system was activated. They had to smash a hole big enough in the exit doors to crawl out with the stolen items.
In another raid, guards were targeted as they entered the Moreish Café, in Middleton, Leeds, to fill up a cash machine. One had a knife held to his neck and another was attacked before the gang made off with £108,000 in cash.
They struck twice at the Co-op store in Outwood, Wakefield. On the first occasion, November 30 last year, one guard had a sawn- off shotgun pointed at his head. In the second raid at the store a guard was struck several times with a baseball bat and robbed of a box of cash.
During a raid at the Spa shop, Potovens Lane, Outwood, a male shop assistant was ordered to fill a bag with cigarettes and a female worker was threatened with a machete. The Co-op store at Swinnow, Leeds, was targeted on April 24 and staff were threatened with a Samurai sword. The gang’s last raid was at a Post Office in Great Preston, near Leeds. A post mistress was left badly bruised as almost £2,000 in cash was taken.
A security officer who had the gun pointed to his head said he had felt like a “zombie” since the attack.