Men Jailed For 17k Tesco Armed Robbery

Two men have been jailed for carrying out a £17,000 armed robbery at a branch of Tesco and then hiding from police in the grounds of a school.

Schoolchildren and teachers had to be barricaded in their classrooms at The Vale First and Middle School in Findon Valley, near Worthing, West Sussex, on March 22.

Dominic Mendy and Danny Palmer, both 31, had earlier targeted the crew of a Group 4 Securicor van delivering cash to a Tesco store in Chichester, leading to a 21-mile police pursuit involving ground units and the police helicopter.

The men, both of no fixed address, were sentenced at Chichester Crown Court after having each pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing a prohibited weapon at a previous hearing.

They were both given indeterminate sentences, with Mendy ordered to serve a minimum of four years and Palmer a minimum of a five-and-a-half years, a spokesman for Sussex Police said.

The court heard the two 9mm handguns they used to threaten the van's two crew members were later found to have been decommissioned.

The men were pushed to the ground during the robbery but no shots were fired and nobody was injured.

The robbers then fled using a number of getaway vehicles but were pursued by police with the help of ANPR (Automatic Number Plate Recognition) and the force's helicopter.

After being spotted entering the school's grounds, a pupil then saw them trying to hide in a roof space in the toilets and alerted staff.

The pair were then arrested by armed officers as they tried to leave the premises.

A holdall containing almost all the cash was found in the school foyer, together with the men's outer clothing, while the remaining £240 was found on Mendy.

Judge Charles Byers commended the two security officers for their actions during the incident and the pupil who disturbed the robbers was awarded £500 for his quick-thinking.

After the sentencing, investigating officer, Detective Constable Mark Burgess 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 Tesco, in Wilson Close, and at the school, for their active assistance in providing information.

"From bystanders at Tesco to builders working at the school who pointed out the suspects 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.''