Court hears of alleged armed raids across region

A GANG of armed raiders donned SAS-style uniforms and brandished taser stun guns to pull off a string of robberies across three counties, a court heard.

The gang raided building societies and commercial premises in Mildenhall, Holt in Norfolk and South Wootton, Norfolk and also eyed targets in Norwich and Yarmouth, as well as premises in Essex.

They plotted a series of raids while guards refilled cash machines across East Anglia netting the gang more than �341,000 between August 2007 and September 5 last year, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.

Seven suspects deny taking part in the conspiracy while Mark Richards, 29, has admitted his role, jurors were told.

Prosecutor Michael Shaw said the gang first struck at a branch of Nationwide in Brightlingsea, Essex, escaping with �80,000.

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“You will hear that the use of an axe or similar weapon is a common trademark of this gang, smashing their way into the bank while the ATM machine is being refilled and is therefore open,” he said.

Alleged ringleader Danny Speed, 29, Lee Watson, 42, and Craig Mason, 31, next targeted another branch of Nationwide in Holt on January 29, 2008.

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Mr Shaw said: “We say the robbers had travelled up to Holt on a number of occasions including on or about Monday December 17 2007 and booked into two guesthouses while they planned the robbery.

Speed and Watson, wearing balaclavas, pounced at 6.30pm as G4S guards replenished the building society’s ATM, the court heard.

The brave guards managed to force the door to the building society shut before locking it but the robbers smashed their way in with a sledgehammer, the court heard.

The robbers got away with a total of �81,000 in �10 and �20 notes, the court heard.

A shocked eye-witness described the raiders as ‘dressed head to toe in black, similar to the SAS’, jurors were told.

On March 10, 2008 Nationwide’s Mildenhall branch was robbed by Speed and Watson who armed themselves with a taser stun gun, the court heard.

This robbery was the only one in which the robbers changed their outfits to blend in with the large number of military personnel in the town from the nearby airbase.

The raiders escaped with a total of �47,370.

On April 29, 2008, Richards and another alleged gang member Andrew McCracken, 31, struck at Tesco Express in South Wootton, King’s Lynn, Norfolk, it was said, and fled with �21,000.

Another guard delivering cash to a Tesco store was targeted in Great Yarmouth, on October 13, 2008, by Richards, McCracken and Watson, said Mr Shaw. But fortunately the cash boxes handed over to the robbers were all empty, the court was told.

On March 23 last year, Speed, McCracken and James Sweeney, 29, waited in a Ford Transit outside a Nationwide branch in Norwich, but missed the ATM refill and the heist was aborted, the court heard.

Speed, of Eisenhower Drive, Beckton, east London, denies two counts of conspiracy to burgle, six counts of conspiracy to rob and two counts of having a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence.

McCracken, of Earlsdown House, Barking, Essex, denies two counts of conspiracy to rob and two counts of having a firearm with intent.

Wiltshire, of Downing Road, Dagenham, and Cook, of Hyndman House, Kershaw Road, Dagenham, both deny conspiracy to burgle and conspiracy to rob.

Watson, of the same address as Speed, denies two counts of conspiracy to rob and having a firearm with intent.

Craig Mason, 31, of no fixed address, denies two counts of conspiracy to rob. Sweeney, of no fixed address, denies conspiracy to rob.

Richards, of Berwick Road, Rainham, Essex, admits his role and is not before the jury.

The trial continues.

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