A LANDLADY held at knifepoint in a raid on her pub spoke of the lasting impact of the events as the gang of robbers responsible were jailed for a total of more than 50 years.
Rachel Jenkinson’s Bridge Inn in Horsforth, Leeds was the first premises targeted by six men who terrorised pub and restaurant staff in a series of raids across the city last year.
The “ruthless and violent” gang members, each given lengthy jail terms at Manchester Crown Court yesterday, carried out a string of violent, armed robberies to fund their gambling habits during a six-week spree.
Mrs Jenkinson’s children were sleeping above the pub and she was preparing to close when the robbers struck last August.
The 37-year-old mother of three said she considered quitting after the raid, during which a knife was held to her neck as she was ordered to hand over cash from the till.
“The first thing I wanted to do was leave – I didn’t feel safe,” she said. “I still don’t to a certain extent – it’s not something that just disappears.
“It all happened so quickly but I still struggle even now. But I’m not going to let somebody push me out of a job. You can’t let them win.”
Victims were ordered to hand over cash from tills or safes by the masked thugs, who carried weapons included knives, machetes and meat cleavers.
Several of the attacks were caught on CCTV as the gang managed to take around £20,000.
In one shocking raid, a pub landlord was attacked inside his pub as an eight-year-old boy, who had been sitting at a table playing with his toy cars, looked on in horror.
Manchester Crown Court heard much of the stolen cash was gambled away at casinos in Leeds.
Describing the raids, judge John Potter said: “Ruthless and violent behaviour was used towards innocent victims.”
The gang – Darren Phelan, Thomas Silverwood, Jermaine Wilkes, Michael Bennett, Liam O’Neil and Daniel Lyons – robbed six venues in August and September last year: the Bridge Inn, Horsforth; the Myrtle Tavern, Meanwood; The Travellers Rest, Armley; The Dalesman, West Park; The Angel Inn, Rothwell and Gusto restaurant in Cookridge. There were also five attempted robberies and two further attacks were planned.
In the raid on the Travellers Rest landlord Steven Wilson was beaten with an iron bar and threatened before cash was taken.
Lyons fled the scene in disgust after seeing a young boy inside the pub and later gave evidence against his fellow gang members.
The 21-year-old, of Sholebroke Street, Chapeltown, was jailed for four years and nine months for conspiracy to commit robbery. Phelan, 37, of Carrholm Road, Meanwood, was described as the “mastermind” of the gang. He was sentenced to 15 years – 11 years and 10 months in prison and the rest on licence.
“Chief lieutenant” Silverwood, 19, of Bowood Avenue, Meanwood, was jailed for 12 years.
O’Neil, 21, of Sholebroke View, Chapeltown, was sentenced to eight years.
“Foot soldiers” Jermaine Wilkes, 40, of no fixed address, and Michael Bennett, 39, of Reginald Mount, Chapeltown, received sentences of eight years and four years respectively.
Sentencing the gang, Judge Potter said: “You have left a succession of wholly innocent people significantly traumatised.”