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23 May 2011, 16:36
Supergran Ann Timson who tackled a gang of smash and grab raiders with her handbag was hailed a hero by a judge who praised her for her "extraordinary intervention"
Pictures of brave Ann, 71, single-handedly setting about the sledge-hammer wielding thieves were posted on YouTube and shown all over the world.
The retired market trader sped into action when she saw the gang stealing more than £100,000 worth of watches and jewellery from Michael Jones Jewellers in Gold Street, Northampton.
Wearing a bright red coat, she ran past other shoppers and swung her handbag, hitting one of three men sitting on motorbike before turning her attention to the three other men who were smashing the shop window.
As the gang tried to flee one of them - Patrick O'Brien jumped on the back of a scooter driven by Terry Inglis. It fell over and O'Brien was whacked again by the pensioner. Other members of the public held him until the police arrived. Inglis was seen running off down the street.
Today five men appeared at Northampton crown court.
Patrick O'Brien, 18, from Arlington Square, Islington, Terry Ingles, 22, from Arran Walk, Canonbury, Edward Smith, 28, from Staveley Close, Holloway, Jason Hartles, 25, from Peabody Square, Islington and Michael Sharpe, 40, from Rowstock Gardens, Holloway, all pleaded guilty to a charge of conspiracy to burgle at an earlier hearing.
The prosecution accepted not guilty pleas to a charge of conspiracy to commit robbery.
Ingles admitted taking a Vespa scooter without authority and driving while disqualified. O'Brien admitted being carried on the scooter without authority.
Smith and Sharpe - who were among the organiser of the raid - were each jailed for 6 years 8 months. O'Brien received 5 years and Ingles and Hartles both received 4 years.
Prosecutor Alisdair Smith told Judge Charles Wide QC the gang arrived at the scene on two scooters and a high-powered motorbike at around 9.30 on 7 February this year.
He said the first of the gang's misfortunes was that their actions were captured on video by a man making a film in Northampton town centre.
Mr Smith played the court the video which showed their second misfortune - their encounter with the plucky pensioner. Mrs Timson, who had been talking to a friend outside the Wilkinson's store, ran up the street as the windows were smashed and staff inside desperately tried to close the shutters.
The prosecutor said passerby Ashley Rowley described the scene as "surreal" as he "saw grandmother running up the street using her handbag to set about the men." Mr Rowley helped detain O'Brien.
He said she first swung her handbag at a man on one of the other bikes. "She connected but it did not knock him off the bike. She carried on and her intervention caused O'Brien to fall and the motor bike to topple over.
"O'Brien, who was holding a lump hammer, looked as though he was going to hit her but lowered his arm. The bike went over and Inglis ran off down Gold Street. By that stage others had intervened and detained O'Brien."
Mr Smith said the total stolen was £111,440 and the damage caused was £26,681 making a loss of £138,121. The jewellery has never been recovered. Four sledgehammers and a pair of bolt cutters were recovered from the scene.
Sharpe was seen on CCTV standing on the opposite side of the road at the time of the raid. He was said to be in regular contact on his mobile with Smith during the course of the morning. Hartles was linked to the crime through glass found on his clothes.
In a statement issued at the time Mrs Timson said she would do the same thing again.
She said: "I'd been shopping in the town and was on my way down Gold Street when I met a friend and stopped to have a chat. I became aware of a loud revving noise at the top of the street. I looked over and saw a kid run up to the doorway of the jeweller which is on the corner of Bridge Street. Three lads followed him and when I saw their arms going I thought the kid was being beaten up. My mother's instinct kicked in and I ran across the road shouting at the lads to stop it. Only then did I realise that they were smashing glass and that it was a raid. There was a scooter in my path revving up but by now I was in full flight and I started whacking the lads over the head with my shopping bag. Passers by didn't come to my assistance to begin with. I was amazed at that, but they all seemed mesmerised. A lot were standing there filming or taking photos and I wonder whether more people didn't intervene because they thought the raid was being mocked up. In the cold light of day, I know I put myself in danger. But I probably would do the same again. My red coat has now been packed away for the winter and my red hair is being dyed green. And my black shopping bag is having a rest today, to give it time to recover from its bruises!"
For Hartles, John Lloyd-Jones said he had been a talented goalkeeper who at one stage had played youth football for West Ham and Millwall and had been with a professional team in Finland.
Matthew Sherratt for Sharpe said he was not one of the main minds behind the raid. He said nobody was injured.
Desmond O'Reilly for O'Brien said he had always intended to plead guilty.
For Ingles, Hugh D'Agulia said he was a "foot soldier" who had shown remorse by his plea.
John Townsend for Smith said he was not going to do anything like this again as he had a young child.
Judge Wide said: "The only reason why they did not get away with even more was the extraordinary intervention by 71 year old Mrs Timson."
He went on: "The actions of Mrs Timson had received world wide publicity - not least on You tube. She took on those young men who were armed with sledgehammers. No praise is too high. If it had not been for her actions more would have been stolen and fewer of those involved would have got away."
The judge said he was recommending Mrs Timson for an award from the High Sherrif of Northants.
He also commended actions by others members of the public who were involved - cameraman Ben Jacobson who captured the raid on his camera, and others who helped detain O'Brien: Ashley Rowley, Genjtar Bulija and Tony Franks. He also commended white van driver David Edwards who followed Ingles in his vehicle and identified him to the police.