Two prolific robbers jailed for almost 20 years - South Bedfordshire


Two robbers, who embarked on a "concerted campaign of robbery" across South Bedfordshire, targeting late night stores and convenience shops, have been jailed for a total of almost 20 years.

George McAward and his trusty "lieutenant" Scott Cerqua wore hoodies and scarves to hide their faces. Cerqua provided the transport and McAward had with him a knife. Together, and over a period of just short of two weeks, the pair accompanied by another man, as yet unknown, struck at shops in Luton, Dunstable, Kensworth, and Heath and Reach near Leighton Buzzard. Always they were after the same things - cash from the till, cigarettes and alcohol.

Shop staff, some of whom were working on their own, were left shocked and traumatized by the raids.

But although planning had gone into the raids, they weren't always the brightest of criminals. Although they would always cover up their their faces when holding up a store, on one occasion McAward referred to his partner in crime by his name.

Cerqua had used his own car to ferry him and the team to a number of the hold ups and, on two occasions, it was spotted close to the scene.

Today, Thursday, 06 August 2015, the men appeared for sentence at Luton Crown Court.

McAward, aged 32, of The Mall, Dunstable, pleaded guilty to ten counts of conspiring to commit robberies, accepting they had taken part in 10 hold ups.

Cerqua, aged 36, of Hitchin Road, Luton, appeared for sentence having been found guilty at the end of a trial last month of ten counts of conspiring to commit robberies.

The court was told that between 28 February this year and 10 March the pair, along with a third man not yet traced, took park in 10 robberies.

Alex Krikler, prosecuting, said that on the evening of 28 February there were two robberies at a newsagents and general store in Albert Road, Luton and then at the Kensworth Supermarket in the village of Kensworth. In the second hold up, in which McAward had been armed with a knife, £2000 was snatched from the till.

On the evening of 01 March there were three further robberies or attempted hold ups. The Slip End Supermarket was targeted, so too was the Del Off Licence in Wellington Street, Luton. That night the gang again struck at the same supermarket in Kensworth, on this occasion taking £400.

The court heard at Slip End, staff at the supermarket "had fought back" causing the gang to flee empty handed.

On 03 March, £1000 was taken along with cigarettes and alcohol from a Connect store in Albert Road, Luton. Three days later the supermarket at Kensworth was hit for a third time and money again taken from the till.

On 08 March, £1300 was taken from the till at Connect store in Albert Road and that same evening the Co-op store in Heath and Reach near Leighton Buzzard was robbed of cash and cigarettes.

The court was told that finally, on the evening of 10 March, the DS Wine Store in Poynters Road, Dunstable was targeted by the gang and cash and alcohol was taken.

Mr Krickler said one other man is still at large. He said Cerqua's car had been seen at the scene of two of the robberies and there was also cell site evidence linking his mobile phone to hold ups, especially so at the Heath and Reach offence.

Passing sentence, Judge Michael Kay QC told the pair considerable planning had been involved and he said: "This was a concerted campaign of robbery which began on 28 February and ended on 10 March." He said the corner shops they had targeted provided a valuable and much needed service in their neighbourhoods and staff working in them were particularly vulnerable late at night.

Judge Kay said that although no one had been seriously injured, the psychological effect on victims of robberies had been profound and traumatic.

He jailed McAward, who had committed the offences to fund his addiction to class A drugs and pay of debts, to nine years and nine months imprisonment.

Cerqua, a former British Army soldier and lorry driver, was given a 10 year sentence.

The judge said he accepted McAward had been the ringleader, but he described Cerqua as his "lieutenant."

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