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23 August 2010, 14:02
Two men are today each starting prison sentences for a £17,000 armed robbery - which was followed by a 21-mile police pursuit involving ground units and the police helicopter. The men then ran into the grounds of a Findon Valley school where they were arrested.
Dominic Mendy and Danny Palmer, both 31, and both of no fixed address, were sentenced at Chichester Crown Court today, having each pleaded guilty at a hearing at the same court on 24 June, to robbery and possessing a prohibited weapon.
Mendy must serve a minimum of four years of a nine year prison sentence and Palmer must serve a minimum of a five-and-a-half years of an 11 year prison sentence.
Alert witnesses and a swift police response ensured that they were arrested within an hour and the cash recovered.
Shortly after 8am on Monday 22 March the two men, armed with two 9mm handguns which were later found to have been decomissioned, held up the crew of a Group 4 Securicor van delivering cash inside the store for the ATMs. The two crew members were threatened and pushed to the ground but no shots were fired and nobody was injured.
The men ran off with a box containing the cash and got into a previously stolen 4x4 Mercedes parked in the car park, which drove off and was found burnt in nearby Wilson Close shortly afterwards. The men then got into a stolen silver Saab saloon which drove off eastward.
However police units had responded swiftly and were following the Saab with the assistance of ANPR (Automatic Number plate Recognition) and the Sussex Police helicopter. A police car caught up with the Saab in Mill Lane, High Salvington, where the robbers reversed into the police vehicle and drove off but abandoned it a short distance further along the lane. The guns were later found abandoned inside the car.
The two robbers ran off into the nearby grounds of The Vale School, Vale Avenue, Findon Valley, and after a police search two men were arrested in the school. They had tried to hide in a roof space in the toilets but were seen by a pupil who alerted staff. The men were arrested by armed officers as they tried to leave the school. There was no violence during the arrests.
A holdall containing almost all the cash was found in the school foyer, together with the men's outer clothing, and the remaining £240 was found on Mendy.
The two security officers were commended by Judge Byers for their actions during the incident and the boy who disturbed the robbers was awarded £500 for his quick-thinking.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Mark Burgess at Chichester said: "Our thanks are due to all the police officers involved for their quick and professional response, but equally importantly to the several witnesses, both at Tescos, in Wilson Close, and at the school, for their active assistance in providing information. From bystanders at Tescos to builders working at the school who pointed out the sspects to arriving police officers, everyone was really co-operative. We could not have asked for better support."
Detective Inspector Trevor Bates of Worthing and Adur CID said: "This was a potentially very dangerous situation for the school, but staff moved very promptly to keep the children safe and at no stage were they in any direct danger. It is clear that the two men had simply panicked, left their guns in the car, and gone into the first building they came across in which they thought they might hide."-->-->