Six members of a robbery gang jailed - Luton

14/01/2014

Six members of a robbery gang that targeted Co-op stores and Ladbroke Betting shops have been jailed for more than 31 years.

A Judge said the supermarkets were robbed at the end of the day when there was likely to be more cash in the tills.  At the bookmakers they had to pretend to have firearms as that was the only way to gain access to the secure area.

Luton Crown Court heard that various members of the gang committed nine robberies and one attempted robbery in a three month period at the beginning of 2012. They stole more than £13,000 from tills.

The gang relied on speed and fear to terrorise cashiers with an assortment of weapons. Two would enter a store with their faces hidden behind masks, while others waited outside in getaway cars.

But, in one hold up, two of the robbers caught a taxi to a village store and told the unsuspecting driver to wait nearby while they robbed it.  Moments later the pair emerged from the Co-op store in the village of Caddington, Beds with cash they'd seized. They even paid the £12 fare to the driver from the proceeds.

On Friday, 10 January 2014,  three men and two women were handed down jail terms:

John Langley, 34, of Dunstable Road, Luton, who was convicted by a jury of conspiracy to rob was jailed for eight years and banned from driving for five years.  He had been a getaway driver.

Stuart Guildea, 36, of Richmond Drive, Houghton Regis was jailed for seven and a half years after pleading guilty to three robberies, one attempted robbery and three thefts. Judge Philip Bartle QC said he was a 'career criminal' who had been released from his last prison sentence just eleven days before joining the gang.

Anthony Francis, 32 , of Jasmine Road, Luton was jailed for five years and four months. He pleaded guilty to two robberies.

Rachel Richards, 23, of Spinney Road, Luton was found guilty by a jury of conspiracy to rob. The mother of one was a getaway driver on two occasions. She was jailed for three years ten months and banned from driving for three.

Christina Garland, 24, of Holyrood Drive, Houghton Regis, was also found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery, after being present in the getaway car on one occasion. She was given a two year prison sentence, but was not in court as she had jumped bail. A warrant is out for her arrest.

The sixth defendant Mathew Daly, 34, of Abbots Wood Road, Luton, was sentenced today, Tuesday, 14 January 2014. He pleaded guilty to three robberies, and was jailed for five years.

Judge Bartle said: "Each robbery was carried out in more or less the same way. They were planned and not spontaneous. Each took about a minute and the robbers knew exactly what they wanted and how to get it. Staff and customers were scared and frightened, but no one was physically injured."

The robberies took place at the Co-op in Manor Road, Caddington; the Co-op, 76-78 Birdsfoot Lane, Luton;  Ladbrokes, Hitchin Road, Luton; the Co-op, 259 Birdsfoot Lane, Luton; the Co-op, Lowther Road, Dunstable; an attempt at Ladbrokes in Eaton Green Road, Luton; the Co-op, Wigmore Lane, Luton; the Co-op, Westfield Road, Dunstable: the Co-op, High Street Redbourn, Herts and the Co-op, Coniston Road, Flitwick.

Luton Crown Court was told, the gang was eventually caught after regulars at a pub in Flitwick, Beds realised the gang were robbing a nearby Co-op store and chased the masked robbers as they fled to their waiting getaway car. As a result, the car number plate and make of car was passed onto the police and, following a high speed car chase back to Luton, gang members were arrested.

Ian McLoughlin, prosecuting, said the gang relied on speed and inducing fear in shop staff. The robbers who entered a premises would be armed with a variety of implements, including hammers, screwdrivers, a knife or chisel.

The jury were told the robberies were well drilled, quick and, as the gang became more adept, they refined their "technique." One robbery took just 30 seconds and the haul was £300, it was claimed.

Two men would always enter a premises, their faces hidden by a balaclava or hoodie to carry out the robbery, while others waited outside to facilitate a fast getaway in a car.

When robbing a Co-op store, the plan followed the same pattern, the jury was told. Masked robbers would come up to the counter, vault over it and then smash open tills. Security cash boxes that were fitted below the counter would be ripped from their mounting and taken.

The prosecutor said when a Ladbroke shop was the target, the method changed because of the extra security which meant counter staff were behind glass partitions and doors. Then, the masked robbers would burst in with what appeared to be firearms sticking out of holdalls or plastic bags. The plan was to frighten staff into open the security doors.

The jury were told, gang members would buy clothing and footwear prior to a robbery that was cheap and easily disposable, so that within moments of making off, they could change their appearance.

Please note - all court copies are provided by South Beds News Agency, who retain the copyright for all articles published.