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19 May 2016, 20:08 | Updated: 19 May 2016, 20:17
Three robbers who held up 13 shops over five months armed with swords, hammers and crowbars have been jailed for a total of more than 40 years.
Coventry gang members Anthony Collier, Darren Irwin and Thomas Rawbone struck at convenience stores across Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire making off with tens of thousands of pounds in cash and cigarettes.
Their crime spree began on the night of 22 December 2014 when two masked men – one brandishing a crowbar – raided One Stop in Caesar Road, Kenilworth, and made off with £6,000 worth of stock.
They went on to hit the same shop on twice more – on 3 February and 6 April last year when they stuffed cigarettes inside a duvet cover.
They also targeted shops in Meriden, Knowle, Eastern Green, Finham, Tile Hill and Nuneaton.
Forensics experts found Irwin’s fingerprints on a bag recovered from a Mini used to get away from an 8 January robbery at Tesco Express in Kenilworth that saw staff threatened with a machete.
Collier, from Bulwer Road in Radford, was spotted driving a stolen Audi alongside Rawbone on 18 May.
Traffic cops were forced to abandon a pursuit on safety grounds as the 30-year-old careered into on-coming traffic, clipped park cars and ventured off-road – but he was arrested an hour later from an address in Murray Road, while a subsequent search of his home address in Bulwer Road, Radford, uncovered a machete.
26-year-old Rawbone was picked up the following day from his home in Brinklow Road where a distinctive Berghaus jacket with red toggles – identical to that worn by a One Stop raider on 3 February – was found by search officers.
And Irwin – realising the net was closing in – handed himself into police on 29 May when he walked into Coventry Police station front office.
All three went on to admit conspiracy to rob and at Leamington Justice Centre on Wednesday (18 May).
Collier – who also admitted being part of a three-strong gang that robbed Hatton Country World in July 2014 – was jailed for a total of 18 years.
Rawbone and 34-year-old Irwin, from Delius Street in Tile Hill, were both handed prison terms of 11-and-a-half years.
Investigating officer, DC Bevis Johnson from West Midlands Police’s Force Priorities Team, said: “These were terrifying offences for the shop staff – one of whom was on duty during all three robberies at Kenilworth’s One Stop – as they were threatened by men brandishing weapons. No violence was used but no-one should underestimate the psychological impact of such offences on victims.
“These raids were well rehearsed: they always wore face coverings, knew what they wanted and were in and out within just a few minutes.
“However, we secured compelling DNA and surveillance evidence against them…they were left with no option but to plead guilty to the robberies.”