A TERRIFYING team of robbers who held up 13 shops over five months armed with swords, hammers and crowbars have been jailed for a total of more than 40 years.
Coventry gang members Anthony Collier, Darren Irwin and Thomas Rawbone struck at convenience stores across Solihull, Coventry and Warwickshire, making off with tens of thousands of pounds in cash and cigarettes.
Their crime spree began on the night of December 22, 2014 when two masked men – one brandishing a crowbar – raided One Stop in Caesar Road, Kenilworth, and made off with £6,000 worth of stock.
They went on to hit the same shop on two further occasions – on February 3 and April 6 last year when they stuffed cigarettes inside a duvet cover – plus other community retailers in Meriden, Knowle, Eastern Green, Finham, Tile Hill and Nuneaton.
However, police intelligence led officers to a Ford C Max in Kipling Road, Tile Hill, where the tobacco haul from their third Caesar Road raid was found hidden in the boot (pictured), while a pillowcase in the car returned a blood DNA hit to Rawbone.
Forensics experts also identified Irwin’s fingerprints on a bag recovered from a Mini used to get away from an January 8 robbery at Tesco Express in Kenilworth that saw staff threatened with a machete.
Collier, from Bulwer Road in Radford, was spotted driving a stolen Audi alongside Rawbone on May 18.
Traffic cops were forced to abandon a pursuit on safety grounds as the 30-year-old careered into on-coming traffic, clipped park cars and ventured off-road – but he was arrested an hour later from an address in Murray Road, while a subsequent search of his home address in Bulwer Road, Radford, uncovered a machete.
Rawbone (26) was picked up the following day from his home in Brinklow Road where a distinctive Berghaus jacket with red toggles – identical to that worn by a One Stop raider on February 3 – was found by search officers.
And Irwin – realising the net was closing in – handed himself into police on May 29 when he walked into Coventry Police station front office.
All three went on to admit conspiracy to rob and at Leamington Justice Centre on Thursday (May 18) Collier – who also admitted being part of a three-strong gang that carried out a terrifying robbery at Hatton Country World in July 2014 – was jailed for a total of 18 years.
Rawbone and 34-year-old Irwin, from Delius Street in Tile Hill, were both handed prison terms of eleven-and-a-half years.
Investigating officer, DC Bevis Johnson from West Midlands Police’s Force Priorities Team, said: “These were terrifying offences for the shop staff – one of whom was on duty during all three robberies at Kenilworth’s One Stop – as they were threatened by men brandishing weapons.
“No violence was used but no-one should underestimate the psychological impact of such offences on victims.”
A One Stop spokesman estimated the company lost £38,000 from the seven robberies at its shops and that 14 staff members were directly affected.
He said: “No-one was physically hurt…but knowing these individuals have been brought to justice will greatly help the recovery of those colleagues affected.”
Collier also admitted conspiracy to rob Rainbows nightclub in Coventry on May 19 when West Midlands Police officers found him in a stolen BMW near the venue with a crowbar and machete in the car’s foot-well.