Bookie bandit jailed for 12 years

A GUN-toting criminal has begun a 12-year jail term after admitting robbing eight betting shops across the country - including two on the same Suffolk bookies.

Dave Gooderham

A GUN-toting criminal has begun a 12-year jail term after admitting robbing eight betting shops across the country - including two on the same Suffolk bookies.

Nicholas Smith, 58, pleaded guilty to carrying out the two raids on Ladbrokes in Haverhill, which were two in a series of terrifying armed robberies he admitted following a massive police operation.

Smith, of Tempsford Avenue, Borehamwood, nicknamed the bookie bandit, pleaded guilty to robbing Ladbrokes shops armed with a gun over a two-year period.

Detectives said Smith would often enter the shop in a disguise before threatening staff with a gun and forcing them to hand over cash.

On two separate occasions last year, he targeted the Haverhill branch of the bookies as well as shops in Cambridge, Spalding, Hatfield, Harrow Weald, Isleworth and Feltham.

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His actions prompted a special police operation, Flagmount, which was featured on BBC's Crimewatch programme, and a £10,000 reward offered by the Association of British Bookmakers.

Speaking after Smith was sentenced at Harrow Crown Court, Det Chief Insp Harry Hennigan, who led the investigation on behalf of Finchley Flying Squad, said: “Smith would normally enter the bookmakers' when there are few or no customers late in the evening or first thing in the morning and walk straight to the counter. He then demanded that cash be placed in a carrier bag whilst threatening staff by saying he had a gun.

“No one was injured during the robberies, nor had a firearm been discharged, but members of staff were left shaken by the experience.

“Despite Smith using disguises, my officers built up a description of him and released several CCTV images of the suspect to help identify him. Officers conducted extensive inquiries and issued media appeals to identify the man in the images.

“The weight of evidence against him was overwhelming which I believe went some way in his guilty pleas and determined his substantial sentence.”

The Haverhill Ladbrokes shop was attacked by the robber twice in little over three months. Smith, who pleaded guilty to eight robberies, threatened female members of staff and customers with a handgun and demanded money on February 7, 2007, and then on May 27.

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