'Elvis' armed robber jailed for life

 


A serial armed robber who dressed up as Elvis Presley and sported other bizarre disguises when he targeted betting shops across Britain was today jailed for life.

Martin Reilly, 53, used wigs, hats, false beards, moustaches and a fright mask to alter his appearance and hide distinctive scarring on his cheeks during hold-ups.

Sitting at Brighton Crown Court, Judge Paul Tain told Reilly he would serve a minimum of 12 years for the armed robberies which left his victims "immensely frightened".

He told Reilly his guilty pleas to seven armed robberies, one attempted armed robbery and seven counts of possession of a firearm at Lewes Crown Court in January this year had saved his vulnerable victims from having to attend court to "recite the information they are no doubt reliving in their post-traumatic stress disorder state".

Reilly carried out the raids between June 13 and October 10 last year after falling out with his probation officer who had told him he could not move back to Ireland where his family lives.

Prosecutor Amanda Kelly said many of his victims were still suffering from anxiety as a result of the armed robberies.

She said: "Although none of the victims of these robberies suffered any physical injury, all of them suffered mental anguish and some of them are still suffering the psychological effects today.

"Several of them report ongoing anxiety and sleep difficulties as a result of these offences and virtually all of them say that their daily working lives have been gravely affected by what they experienced."

Reilly was out on licence, having been released from a previous life sentence in 2005 for similar armed robberies, when he committed the offences at bookmakers in Brighton, Hove, Eastbourne, Woking, Surrey, Portsmouth, Hampshire, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, Bedford, Bedfordshire and west London.

In one raid he impersonated Presley - whose UK number one hits included (You're The) Devil In Disguise - by donning aviator-style sunglasses, stick-on sideburns and a black wig.

His crimes stretched across seven police force areas, sparking a nationwide manhunt - and images of his outlandish costumes drew widespread publicity.

During each offence he would enter the betting shops, usually after a single member of staff had just opened up, and demand cash from the tills and the safe while brandishing an imitation firearm, or occasionally a knife.

The court was told he locked his victims in toilets, kitchens and store cupboards before escaping with thousands of pounds in cash. In total, he took £23,000 during his crime spree.

When Reilly was eventually arrested in Hereford in October last year, he told police: "I never hurt anyone. There's no need for all this, I've never used a real gun or hurt anybody. You won't get any trouble from me."

A police search of the self-contained flat Reilly had been staying in at the Charades Guesthouse in Hereford, revealed items of clothing, masks, wigs, a high-visibility jacket, trousers and waistcoats, glasses and goggles, strips of sticking plaster and a tube of "theatrical flesh", similar to those used in the robberies. Officers also found a large knife and an imitation handgun.

PA

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