Armed robbery gang members jailed

Members of one of Britain's biggest networks of armed robbery gangs were jailed today.

The 17 raiders were among 30 career criminals being sentenced for their roles in raids that netted watches and jewellery worth more than £3.5 million.



The crooks were so prolific they undertook a robbery almost every fortnight for 16 months as they targeted shops across southern England.



Gangs of three or four men dressed in white overalls and balaclavas and used sledgehammers and axes to smash their way into jewellery shops.



During some of the raids the thieves armed themselves with knives, a gun, a hammer, CS spray and a Taser stun gun.



Kingston Crown Court was told 34 raids were carried out across southern England, London, the West Country and East Anglia between January 2008 and May 2009.



On one occasion a gang travelled to Antwerp to commit a robbery during which they fired CS spray at passers-by and the shopkeeper.



They also targeted motorcycle dealerships, tying up staff and loading motorcycles into stolen vans before using the machines as getaway vehicles.



The five masterminds were James Stewart, 28, brothers Billy, 28, and Danny Johnson, 29, Anthony Bado, 28, and John Chambers, 35.



Detective Inspector Jason Prins, of the Met's Flying Squad, said: "We targeted these violent individuals who have shown they were prepared to use significant force to steal large quantities of jewellery.



"The incidents were terrifying for the staff members and their customers who were caught up in them. It is our duty to protect people from this level of violence.



"These defendants operated as an organised criminal network, meticulously planning and carrying out the most brazen daylight raids.



"The sentences demonstrate our commitment to deal with violent and organised crime in our communities and sends out a strong message that this type of criminal behaviour will not be tolerated."