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6 November 2016, 09:09
A court has heard how police used the tracking device in a stolen smartphone to trap a gang who had threatened staff at a fishmongers in Cranbrook.
Two of the men were also caught on CCTV taking money out of a cash machine using a stolen company bank card.
Anthony Allen, Sammy Kingwell and Ricky White stole the smartphone, and around £1,000 in cash, from staff working at Cranbrook Fishmongers on 14 April 2016.
All three pleaded guilty to the offence, and a further burglary in Benenden.
The court heard that that the offenders targeted the premises at 3am and forced entry by throwing a lump of concrete through a window.
Each offender wore a balaclava and made threats to members of staff before escaping with the cash, a smartphone and a bank card belonging to the business.
Police arrived quickly and were able to track the phone to being in Sir Henry Brackenbury Road, Ashford.
A police helicopter was dispatched to the area and spotted the car the offenders were travelling in.
This vehicle was followed to a house in Adams Drive, Ashford, Kingwell's home. The three men were then seen getting out of the car.
Patrols found the three either inside the house or in a back garden. A small amount of cash was also found in the ground floor toilet after attempts had been made to flush it away.
Banking records also revealed that £250 had been withdrawn from an ATM off Simone Weil Avenue and officers were able to obtain CCTV footage of Allen and White using the machine.
It later emerged that earlier that night the offenders had burgled a flat in Sir Henry Brackenbury Road. Among the items taken was an iPhone, a DAB radio and a digital camera.
Allen, 38 and of Badlesmere Close in Ashford, was sentenced to seven years for robbery, burglary and fraud.
Kingwell, 32 and of Adams Drive in Willesborough, was sentenced to six years for two counts of burglary, one of which was unrelated to this case, robbery and fraud.
White, 30 and of Downs Way in Charing, was sentenced to eight and a half years for robbery, burglary and fraud.
Detective Sergeant Jonathan Faulkner, from Kent Police, said: "The robbery at the fishmongers was brazen and left staff members feeling threatened and shocked in an environment where they should feel safe.
"Unfortunately for the offenders, they left behind a lot of clues that we were able to piece together to quickly get them arrested and remanded in custody.
"The victims played an important role in securing this conviction, particularly by helping us track the movements of the stolen phone and I am grateful for the support they gave us.
"All three men present a very real and significant threat to the public and I welcome the sentences that have now been passed."