6 men gang sentenced after 6
year crime spree...
Liverpool men who conspired to commit 22 robberies across Merseyside and
Cheshire, within a 6 year spree, reportedly netting more than £1.5m, have been
sentenced at Liverpool Crown Court.
The Merseyside Police and Cheshire
Constabulary investigation centred on 22 robberies or attempted robberies at
Banks and Post Offices, within Sefton, Liverpool, Wirral, St Helens, Warrington,
Neston and Great Sutton. As well as a 23rd offence, which happened at a Bank in
West Hull, on Tuesday, 24 November 2015, also forms part of the conspiracy to
commit robbery charges, which apply to the period 25 September 2009 to 24
The media was told that all 6 men were eventually arrested in a co-ordinated
strike at dawn, in Liverpool, on 26 November 2015, following a joint
investigation by Merseyside Police and Cheshire Constabulary. Just 2 days
earlier members of the gang had struck at a Bank, in Hull, stealing a large
amount of cash. During searches of homes in Aigburth and Toxteth on November
26th large amounts of cash, some drugs and CS Gas were found. A Subaru Impreza
was also seized.
All 6 men were charged and 5 pleaded guilty between January 2016 and February
2016. However Gary McNeill, aged 35, of Upper Pitt Street, Liverpool, denied any
involvement in the robberies until his trial date approached and he then changed
his plea to guilty.
The following people appeared for sentencing before Judge David Aubrey QC in a
hearing that lasted most of the day.
► Kieron Anthony Whittle, aged 35, from Aigburth, sentenced to 15 years.
► John Paul Stewart, aged 30, from Aigburth, sentenced to 13 years, 6 months.
► Ian John Stewart, aged 49, formerly from Toxteth, sentenced to 13 years.
► Alan Robert Lea, aged 38, from Toxteth, sentenced to 16 years.
► Gary Thomas McNeill, aged 35, formerly from Liverpool, sentenced to 12 years,
► Shaun James McDonald, aged 38, from Toxteth, sentenced to 13 years, 4 months.
In total the gang got a total of 83 years, 4 months, at Liverpool Crown Court,
on Wednesday, 25 May 2016. At the gang's sentencing hearing at Liverpool Crown
Court Judge David Aubrey QC read extracts from the personal statements of many
of the victims. Judge Aubrey also heard the 999 calls that bank staff made to
the police while the robberies were in progress.
We are told that:- "The offenders used sledgehammers to force their way
into premises, usually while staff were preparing to open for business or were
cashing up at the end of the day, or used the element of surprise to drop in
through the roof, having removed roof tiles." Police also said:-
"Employees described the robberies as 'terrifying' with 1 victim saying she
feared for her and her colleagues lives when the men burst in. Some victims were
man handled and injured by the robbers, others were threatened while being
ordered to provide access to the bank's cash."
1 victim, who was working in the Prescot Road branch of Halifax in Old Swan,
Liverpool, when the gang burst in through the roof, said in her statement:-
"The incident was terrifying to the point where I actually thought my
colleagues and I were going to die. It went from a normal day to instantly a lot
of banging and screaming. I locked us all into a room and turned off the light.
We were absolutely petrified stood in the dark, basically waiting for the
robbers to come and get us. Some of our friends were trapped in an area with the
robbers. We could hear them screaming. We did not know at this point if the
offenders were armed and I genuinely feared for our lives."
The woman told officers that since the robbery she had suffered months of
sleepless nights and needed counselling as she was fearful about going to work
and of being on her own. She added:- "Even though a couple of years have
passed I'm still stuck with the effects of the incident. Every time anything
like this is reported in the industry it all comes flooding back."
Another employee at the same bank described the incident as:- 'absolutely
petrifying' and said she was dragged down some steps and knocked to the
floor by one of the offenders causing a neck injury. The woman said the incident
had a wider impact on her family and she had to finish her job as she was so
traumatised:- "I really feel that I have a lifelong issue that I can never
ever get over. There is not a day goes by when this doesn't affect me."
A young mother who was working in a Lloyds TSB
branch in Wavertree, Liverpool when four gang members dropped in through the
roof said the trauma of the incident had affected the early years of parenting.
She said in her statement:- "I feel very strongly that they not only
robbed the bank, but also robbed me of what should have been a very happy time
for me and my child."
A victim from 1 of the robberies, this time at Nat
West, in Neston, which took place on 14 November 2015 said in her statement:-
"After the incident I started having panic attacks and couldn't sleep. It was so
bad that I needed sleeping tablets and beta blockers to deal with the stress. I
wouldn't go out at night and only went out if I had to during the day. On a
number of occasions I had panic attacks when I saw anyone come near me wearing a hoodie. If there was ever a loud noise I would jump and panic. This continued
and led to me having counselling. I wasn't able to work for 12 months. I worked
at the bank all my life and loved it but after this incident I hated my job. I
will never fully get over it."
Merseyside Police Detective Inspector Mike Dalton who led the joint
investigation called on the public to share any information they had about
people involved in robberies. He said:- "This gang enjoyed a criminal
lifestyle on the back of the misery of many decent, hard working people who were
simply doing their job when these men burst in and changed their lives forever.
The impact of these robberies on all the people who witnessed them cannot be
underestimated. Innocent members of staff who were petrified at the time have
remained too traumatised to return to work. Victims have needed counselling and
medication to help them deal with what happened. A young mum was robbed of the
enjoyment that having a young baby brings. Another who had a baby long after the
robbery feared the stress she still felt could harm her unborn child. People's
families have suffered too. 1 victim told us her husband was in shock when he
saw her in Hospital wearing a neck brace after 1 of the offenders had manhandled
her. This gang was completely ruthless in what they did. They used brute force
to smash open external doors or the element of surprise to drop in through the
roof. They carried sledgehammers and wore masks which added to the fear the
victims felt. In short, they did not care who they harmed or what damage they
caused as long as they got the money. It is hugely satisfying to see them jailed
today following our investigation with Cheshire Police and I hope the victims
feel reassured that they are now behind bars. I would like to thank the
investigation teams and the legal team for all their hard work in this lengthy
case. I am also grateful to the financial institutions for their co-operation
during our enquiries. Bank robberies are not victimless crimes and it is in
everyone's interests to work together to stop them happening in our communities.
The public can play a big part by calling:- 999, if they see a crime in progress
or call:- 101 if they see anyone acting suspiciously near a bank, building
society or post office. Bank robbers like these men live in our communities and
can damage them so much so please help us stop them by telling us what you
Detective Sergeant Rob Grantham from Cheshire Constabulary said:- "The
sentences handed down by the court today reflect the severity of the crimes and
the impact on the victims. The gang targeted a number of financial institutions
across 3 force areas, forcing entry mainly at opening or closing times and
stealing significant quantities of cash. The gang was subsequently linked to
four offences in Cheshire via forensic enquiries. This was a complex and lengthy
investigation by a dedicated team of Officers from Cheshire Police working
alongside colleagues in Merseyside Police. Today sees the successful conclusion
of that investigation with a number of men being handed lengthy custodial
sentences. The impact upon the victims should not be underestimated. It was
significant and will be long lasting with many deeply traumatised by what
happened. Some have been unable to return to work because this has had such a
big impact on their lives. I would like to thank the victims for their
co-operation and bravery throughout what has been an extremely difficult time
for them. I hope that the conclusion of this case now helps them to move on with
their lives. Armed robbery is a serious offence and one that Cheshire Police is
committed to tackling. We want to reassure the business community that we take
any incidents of this nature extremely seriously and we will do all we can to
trace those responsible and ensure they are brought to justice. This is a
significant result and we hope that it serves as a warning to others that if you
choose to come into Cheshire and break the law you will be actively
targeted, caught and punished."
The timeline for the 23 offences included in the conspiracy charge is as
1. Monday 21/08/2008 TSB Long moor Lane L9.
2. Friday 25/09/2009 HSBC 382 Aigburth Road L17.
3. Thursday 22/12/2011 Barclays Bank County Road L4.
4. Tuesday 06/03/2012 Lloyds TSB, Longmoor Lane, L9.
5. Friday 01/06/2012 Nat West, Sefton Road Litherland.
6. Friday 01/06/2012 Nat West, London Road Stockton Heath, WA4.
7. Thursday 21/06/2012 Lloyds TSB, Woodchurch Road, Birkenhead.
8. Friday 10/08/2012 RBS, St Johns Road, Waterloo L22.
9. Thursday 23/08/2013 HSBC Aigburth Road L17.
10. Wednesday 02/01/13 Lloyds TSB, Ellamsbridge Road, St. Helens.
11. Wednesday 13/03/13 Post Office, New Strand, Bootle L20.
12. Monday 18/03/13 Nat West, Sefton Road, Litherland L21.
13. Thursday 28/03/2013 Post Office New Strand Bootle L20.
14. Thursday 02/05/13 Hope Farm Post Office, Sutton, Cheshire.
15. Friday 07/06/13 RBS, Speke Road, Speke,L25.
16. Monday 12/08/2013 Barclays Bank, Liverpool Road, Maghull L31.
17. Wednesday 04/09/13 Lloyds TSB, Smithdown Place, Wavertree.
18. Thursday 14/11/13 Nat West Bank, The Cross Neston CH64 .
19. Monday 02/12/13 Halifax Prescot Road Old Swan L13.
20. Wednesday 10/12/14 Nat West Bank, The Cross Neston CH64.
21. Thursday 08/01/2015 Lloyds TSB, Cambridge Road, Southport.
22. Monday 23/03/2015 Lloyds TSB, Ellamsbridge Road, St. Helens.
23. Tuesday 24/11/2015 – Hull, Humberside.