Judge praises have-a-go hero

A JUDGE has rewarded a have-a-go hero who helped convict two members of a violent gang of East European armed robbers by chasing them down a street moments after they raided a town centre shop.

A JUDGE has rewarded a have-a-go hero who helped convict two members of a violent gang of East European armed robbers by chasing them down a street moments after they raided a town centre shop.

Judge Christopher Ball QC ordered that Adrian Stephens be paid £1,000 from public funds in recognition for his "outstanding" actions in Colchester in April.

He said Mr Stephen's efforts led directly to the jailing - for a total of 21 years at Chelmsford Crown Court yesterday - of two unemployed Lithuanian builders who robbed a string of shops and service stations across East Anglia and East London.

Judge Ball said that Mr Stephens had been walking with his daughter when he saw Colchester shopkeeper, Mrs Patel emerge from her Tara Traders newsagents in Osborne Street screaming and pointing at the back of her head where a gun had just been held.


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She signalled towards two men - Darius Salomon, 25, and Gediminas Karskis, 21 - walking away from her shop and Mr Stephens gave chase.

Unaware they were armed, he grabbed Karskis and said: "Be nice, go back to the shop."

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Judge Ball said: "For his pains, he had a gun pointed at his head and was threatened."

Mr Stephens, thinking he was going to be shot, retreated, but then borrowed a mobile phone from a passer-by, called the police and gave them a running commentary on their position as he once again gave chase.

The pair were eventually caught and admitted robbing more than £2,000 from nine different shops during a two-month crime spree.

The court heard they had travelled from Lithuania to their home in Old Ford Road in Bow, East London, to find work in the construction industry.

But having failed - and desperate for money - they were sucked into working for violent East European ganglords, the court was told.

Gareth Hughes, prosecuting, said Tara Traders was to be the last of their targets. He told the court that they walked into the shop on the afternoon of April 6 and demanded cash.

When Mrs Patel said she had none, Karskis pulled out an air pistol and put it to her head. She handed over £500 and they fled before being foiled by Mr Stephens.

The night before Salomon held up the Esso service station in Ipswich Road, Colchester. He too pulled out the gun, but the female garage worker ducked behind the counter and raised the alarm forcing the Lithuanian to flee.

Between them, the pair robbed seven other shops and garages in East London, Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire.

John Donelly, mitigating, said they came from a "turbulent" country and arrived in England desperate for money - Salomon particularly so because his young son was seriously ill.

He said: "They started off with good intent, but tragically they became a small cog in a system of organised crime."

But, sentencing, Judge Ball said: "Your crimes were despicable. You ruined people's lives - all for a few hundred pounds."

Salomon pleaded guilty to six robberies and the possession of a firearm while Karskis admitted four robberies, three of which were aggravated by possessing a gun.

Salomon was sentenced to 10 years' imprisonment and Karskis 11 years.

They were told they must serve at least half their sentences and they have also been served with deportation notices.

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