Police shoot out robbery gang convicted

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The Independent Online

Four men were convicted today of being part of a robbery gang whose crime spree only ended when the mastermind and his accomplice were shot dead by police.

Terence Wallace, 26, Adrian Johnson, 28, Leroy Wilkinson, 29, and Victor Iniodu, 34, all from south London, were members of a ruthless mob who targeted security vans making cash deliveries to banks, netting £500,000 across the south of England.

Raids took place in Oxford, Swindon, Bristol, Bath, Cambridgeshire, Hampshire, Reading, Ipswich and Gloucestershire between April 2006 and September 2007.

But the 18-month spree was brought to a dramatic end when a police marksman shot ringleader Mark Nunes and accomplice Andrew Markland dead during a foiled raid in Chandlers Ford, Hampshire.

During the month-long trial at Kingston Crown Court, the jury heard that 35-year-old Nunes' "luck ran out" when he was gunned down as he held a pistol to the head of a security guard close to a branch of HSBC in the village.

Markland, 36, was also shot dead when he tried to pick up the weapon.

Getaway driver Wallace and other gang members Johnson, Wilkinson and Iniodu were found guilty by the jury of conspiracy to rob after more than 15 hours of deliberations.

Johnson was also convicted of a separate robbery committed last November but acquitted of possessing a gas canister.

The jury could not agree a verdict on the charge of Johnson possessing a gun and a not guilty verdict was formally entered on this count.

All four had denied the charges during the seven-week trial at Kingston Crown Court in south west London.

Three other men - Leroy Hall, Leon McKenzie and Brian Henry - pleaded guilty to being part of Nunes' gang before the trial began.

The whole gang will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.

During the trial the court heard that convicted armed robber Nunes recruited members for the raids, which he carried out with meticulous planning.

A series of reconnaissance trips would be carried out prior to hitting a target bank and he would ensure that all mobile phones were turned off during the raid.

Locations next to alleyways would be selected so the robbers could make a swift getaway. Escape routes would be researched and areas where vehicles could be changed over would be pinpointed.

The gang hit Group 4 security vans as guards were transferring money to high street outlets.

Some of the raids were carried out with guns and the robbers used violence against guards if they would not hand over their cashboxes.

The gang struck at some locations twice and one guard in Colchester was targeted on two separate occasions while making deliveries.

Mobile records showed that the phones of gang members would go dead some hours before the raids and be switched on only once the job had been completed.

But by using cell-site analysis detectives were able to place conspirators at the scenes during recces in the weeks before the robberies.

By the summer of last year, officers from the Metropolitan Police's Flying Squad had Nunes and his accomplices under surveillance.

On the morning of 13 September, armed police were lying in wait, having identified that Chandlers Ford near Southampton was the gang's next intended target.

As an officer filmed the security van pulling up from a vantage point across the road, Nunes ran up to the guard pointing a gun at his head. Within seconds he slumped to the ground after being hit by the marksman's bullet.

Markland suffered the same fate as he tried to pick up the weapon.

The court heard that Wallace, who was waiting nearby in a Volvo, sped off after witnessing the shootings.

He escaped back to his home in Raynes Park, south west London, where he was later arrested by police.

He denied being involved in the attempted robbery and claimed he had been in London all day.

But the jury was shown CCTV footage of Wallace caught on camera at the railway station in Basingstoke, Hampshire, wearing a distinctive England football shirt.

He had also been filmed by surveillance officers meeting with Johnson later that day. He was seen mimicking a gun and then falling backwards in what prosecutors said was clearly him telling the story of the morning's events.

Wallace had been introduced to Nunes by Johnson, who was described as a loyal friend of the gang leader.

Johnson, a self-confessed cannabis dealer, told the court that he would go the gym and socialise with Nunes but denied being part of his robbery conspiracy.

On the day of the Chandlers Ford raid, he was carrying out a probation programme as part of a community sentence for driving while disqualified.

The court heard that after Nunes' death a further robbery said to involve Johnson was carried out on November 20 at the Lloyds TSB branch in Colchester, the site of a previous raid.

The following day officers arrested Johnson and while searching his house found £8,800 in cash in a shoe box under his bed - believed to be his share from the Colchester raid.

Prosecutors said the robbery might have been carried out in Nunes' memory by his close friend.

In addition, officers found a TomTom satnav device in Johnson's girlfriend's car on which the locations of many of the robberies had been downloaded.

Neither Wilkinson nor Iniodu went into the witness box to give evidence during the trial.

The court heard that Wilkinson was recruited to the gang soon after leaving prison in May last year, where he had been serving a sentence for previous robberies on post offices and security vans.

Iniodu was involved in reconnaissance trips and was caught on police surveillance footage with Nunes outside a KFC takeaway in Cherry Hinton, Cambridgeshire, prior to a raid there.

The prosecution said he was dropped from the gang after he gave the name of Nunes to traffic police when he suffered a puncture on the way back to London following the alleged fact-finding mission.