Ipswich/Bury St Edmunds: Armed gang jailed for watches raid

FIVE armed robbers who were involved in smash-and-grab raids at two high-class jewellery stores in Suffolk have been jailed for a total of 36 years.

Sentencing the gang, Judge David Goodin described the robberies at Thurlow Champness in Abbeygate Street, Bury St Edmunds, and Goldsmiths jewellers in Tavern Street, Ipswich, as “carefully planned and violent”.

On both occasions members of the gang had roared up outside the stores on stolen motorcycles and used sledgehammers or an axe to smash display cabinets containing expensive watches.

During the raid at Thurlow Champness, on February 28 last year, a motorcycle was used to ram open the shop door, allowing the two pillion passengers to snatch Rolex watches worth �22,000.

However, on that occasion the gang ended up fleeing empty-handed after 71-year-old passer-by Michael Graver bravely tackled one of the robbers and grabbed the bag containing the stolen watches.

As the robbers escaped along High Baxter Street, shop assistant Mark Baker, who was on his way to work, had given chase and swung at them with a bag he was carrying.

He had also tried to block the path of another scooter coming towards him and was struck on the hand with a sledgehammer by the pillion passenger, causing a cut and bruising.

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Four months later, on June 15, Rolex and Omega watches valued at �78,000 were snatched after robbers smashed display cabinets at Goldsmiths jewellers in Ipswich with an axe and a sledgehammer.

On that occasion, off-duty policeman Pc Joseph Mullett had bravely lunged at a motorcyclist waiting outside the store.

He had been forced to jump out of the way after a bike was driven at him at high speed.

The court heard that prior to both robberies reconnaissance trips had been made to Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds by gang members and vans had been hired to transport motor-cycles that had been stolen for use in the raids.

On each occasion getaway vehicles had driven in convoy with the vans to the two towns and had waited a short distance away for the shop raiders to return.

Before the court were George Paget, 20, Dean Armstrong, 21, Dwayne Marsh, 34, Charlie Kavanagh, 21 and Jed Macdonald, 22, all from London.

Paget and Armstrong both admitted conspiracy to commit robbery at Thurlow Champness and Goldsmiths and were each sentenced to nine years in prison.

Kavanagh and Macdonald admitted conspiracy to commit robbery at Thurlow Champness and were each locked up for six years.

Marsh had denied conspiracy to commit robbery at Thurlow Champness but was found guilty after a trial at Ipswich Crown Court in May.

He was jailed for six years.

Earlier this year three men who were involved in the Goldsmiths robbery on June 15 with Paget and Armstrong were jailed for a total of 29 years.

Benjamin Murphy, 26, of Loughton, Essex, Danny O’Bryan, 22, of Bulpin, near Thurrock, also in Essex, and Charles Onyemelukwe, 24, of Camden, London, had denied conspiracy to commit robbery but were found guilty after a trial.

Murphy was jailed for 11 years and O’Bryan and Onyemelukwe were each sentenced to nine years.

During yesterday’s hearing Andrew Shaw, prosecuting, praised sharp-eyed residents who contacted the police after noticing unusual vehicle activity in the area of Dale Hall Lane, Ipswich, where the getaway cars and van waited during the Goldsmiths robbery and witnesses who recorded the robbery on their mobile phones.

“But for them, some of these men wouldn’t have been caught,” Mr Shaw said.

In addition to making off with watches worth �78,000 from Goldsmiths the raiders had caused damage valued at more than �20,000 to the premises, added Mr Shaw.

Simon Hancock, for Armstrong, said his client had purchased sledgehammers used in the raids and had driven one of the getaway vehicles to Ipswich.

He had been at work and was not present during the raid at Thurlow Champness.

Tana Adkin, for Paget, said he was the youngest of the robbers and had a young baby.

Bridget Irving, for Marsh, said he had hired the van used in the Thurlow Champness robbery and had used his own credit card to pay for it.

Bruce Clarke, for Kavanagh, said he was already serving a five-year custodial sentence and had driven one of the vehicles to Bury St Edmunds.

Brian Kennedy for Macdonald said he was currently serving a 51-month sentence.

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