Smash and grab gang jailed for 30 years
A gang who used knives and hammers to raid jewellery shops and money transfer exchanges across the UK was jailed for a total of over 30 years on Friday at the Old Bailey.
Thomas O’Connor, 23, of Swan Lane, Rotherhithe was jailed for 12 years and six months;
Conor Gartland, 18, of Druid Street, Southwark was jailed for eight years;
Alex Parle, 22, of Adams Garden Estate, Southwark was jailed for 10 years.
All three men had already been convicted of conspiracy to rob eight jewellery shops and money transfer exchanges in Southwark, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Kensington and Chelsea, City of London, Kent and Manchester at a hearing on 5 November.
The court heard how between February 2014 and January 2015 the three men used concrete blocks and hammers to smash through shop windows and cash desk partitions. They then threatened staff with hammers and a machete, stealing cash and watches before making off on stolen motorbikes and mopeds.
The Met has today released footage of a raid carried out by the gang on Unistream on West Ham Lane, Newham, in which one of the men is seen to smash his way into the cashier’s booth. He is seen to repeatedly bang a hammer wrapped in a bag on the desk, force the cashier’s head back with it, then drag her along by her hair.
Footage of the gang’s robbery at The Jewellers on Crofton Road, Kent, in which one member of the gang is seen smashing the shop front with a hammer and stealing jewellery from inside while another, armed with a machete, keeps lookout was also released.
During a robbery in Liverpool Street, a brave member of public tried to stop Parle from getting away, despite him being armed with a machete. Local police soon arrested Parle nearby.
Flying Squad detectives were able to link the offences and identify the culprits by various lines of enquiry, including forensic analysis of evidence left behind by the gang, such as helmets, a lighter and a knife.
Detective Inspector Nick Blackburn of the Flying Squad said: “O’Connor and his criminal fraternity committed alarmingly violent robberies from the north to the south of England. It was only through the collaborative efforts of the Met’s Flying Squad, City of London Police and Greater Manchester Police that we were able to make the connection and secure convictions.
“These men terrified shop employees, using weapons, aggression and threats in order to get their hands on jewellery and cash. There was a display of sheer courage and determination when one of the employees attempted to stop the robbers getting away, but many of the victims now live in fear of another attack.
“I hope that other robbery gangs will look at this case as an example of how police services across the country will work together to ensure they face justice.”
A week earlier on Friday, 11 December, O’Connor and another group of associates were jailed for more than 30 years for a smash and grab robbery at Attenborough Jewellers in Bethnal Green last year. O’Connor was jailed for eight and a half years – this will run concurrent to his sentence today.
List of offences
16 February 2014, approx 13:35hrs at Akdeniz Jewellers, Walworth Road, Southwark: Two of the gang arrive on mopeds and unsuccessfully try to smash the shop windows with sledgehammers. They drive off empty-handed when staff confront them.
20 December 2014, approx 16:15hrs at Bilex International, Peckham High Street, Southwark: One of the gang enters the shop and uses a concrete block to smash the glass screen. He threatens the female employee with a hammer, before jumping over the counter and stealing £1,250 cash. He runs out and joins another of the gang, who drives them away on a moped.
20 December 2014, approx 18:45hrs at Unistream, West Ham Lane, Newham: One of the gang uses a concrete block to smash the glass partition of the cash desk. He climbs over the counter, thrusts a hammer in the lone female employee’s face and demands she lets him into the safe. When she tells him there is no money, he grabs her by her hair and says “I think your life is more important than money.” The victim throws him the safe keys and manages to run off. The suspect takes over £2,000 cash and makes off on a motorbike, driven by one of his cohorts who has been waiting outside.
22 December 2014, approx 18:40hrs at Kushiara Travel, Commercial Road, Tower Hamlets: One gang member stands guard while three suspects hammer the counter glass with a concrete block and threaten two staff members with a two-foot long knife. The suspects empty the tills and steal money from the safe after demanding it be opened. After taking £29,000 cash, all four head off to Rotherhithe on scooters they arrived on.
28 December 2014, approx 03:00hrs at Blake’s Hotel, Roland Gardens Kensington and Chelsea: Two gang members are seen trying to break into a Range Rover Evoque but subsequently arrested by police, who find them hiding at addresses on Thistle Grove and Holly Mews in Kensington and Chelsea.
13 January 2015, approx 13:35hrs at The Jewellers, Crofton Road, Locksbottom, Orpington, Kent: Three of the gang arrive on a moped and two use a concrete block and sledgehammers to smash the shop window, while the third stands guard, armed with a machete. After grabbing items from the display, they drive off with jewellery worth £37,000.
15 January 2015, approx 16:04hours at Cheshire Watch Company, Manchester City Centre: Two gang members ride pillion to the shop, using an axe to force the front doors open. One acts as look out while the other uses the axe to smash his way into the shop display window. He then climbs inside and steals eight watches worth over £160,000. The two run out and drive off on the stolen motorcycle they arrived on.
22 January 2015, approx 14.30hrs at Carr Watches, Liverpool Street, City of London: Three of the gang arrive on two scooters and use a concrete block from a nearby building as a battering ram. Using this and sledgehammers, they smash the shop window and two of them steal high-value watches from the displays while Parle stands guard. His cohorts make off on the motorbike but he fails to get on the back of one of them and the shop manager tackles him. Parle pulls out a machete and swings it wildly. He tries to run off, but local officers chase and arrest him.