Dangerous criminal locked away for armed jewellery store hold-up
- Credit: Suffolk Constabulary
An armed robber will spend at least eight years behind bars for his part in a ‘mafia-style’ heist.
Robertas Piliukaitis waved a fake pistol at staff and customers, including three schoolgirls, before he and an unidentified accomplice made off with £185,000 worth of watches from a jewellers in Bury St Edmunds almost six years ago.
He was caught up with and remanded at Norwich prison after his arrest in Belfast for class A drugs possession last December.
On Wednesday, Piliukaitis was jailed for 12 years, with a four-year extended licence period, and told he must serve at least two thirds of the sentence behind bars.
Ipswich Crown Court heard how he entered Preston & Duckworth at 4.56pm on November 4, 2014.
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As Piliukaitis threatened staff and customers with an imitation gun, his accomplice used a hammer to smash display cabinets containing valuable watches.
Prosecutor Peter Gair said the raid lasted about 30 seconds and was seen through a window by a witness, who had links to the US Air Force and recognised the weapon as a 9mm Beretta.
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The onlooker, who gave chase but was outrun as the robbers fled down Skinners Lane, described having seen Piliukaitis pointing the gun at staff and customers in a sideways ‘mafia-style’ position.
Piliukaitis, now 50, was living in Dublin before being brought on a warrant back to Suffolk, where he admitted robbery and possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear at an earlier hearing.
Steven Dyble, mitigating, said Piliukaitis knew the offences were serious enough to warrant a lengthy custodial sentence.
Although the weapon was never recovered, Mr Dyble said the discovery of an imitation cartridge at the scene helped demonstrate the gun was inert.
“Clearly the victims were not to know that, but the fact it was an imitation weapon is relevant as to his potential risk to the public,” he added.
Judge David Pugh agreed with the findings of a pre-sentence report, which said Piliukaitis posed a significant risk of causing serious harm to the public by committing a similar offence.
He said the offences were aggravated by his 18 previous convictions, including three robberies and a firearms offence in his native Lithuania, and by the presence of children at the scene.
“It’s clear that all those present were terrified,” he added.
“One child said your actions remain with her even today.”