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Weekly Edition - Published  30 May 2016

 

Local News Report - Mobile Page

 

6 men gang sentenced after 6 year crime spree...

6 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 November 2015. 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, 6 months.

► 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 know."

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 follows:-

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.

 

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