A gang of teenage thugs who held up terrified victims at gunpoint were caught by police who saw them bragging on Facebook about the crimes, detectives said today.
Calling themselves the NE2 Crew, named after a Newcastle postcode, the dopey yobs filmed themselves on mobile phones posing in masks and hoods and put their boasts on the social networking site .
But the five-strong group were jailed at Newcastle Crown Court yesterday for committing terrifying robberies using an imitation firearm.
The first happened on February 16 when three youths burst into a student house in Cardigan Terrace, Heaton, Newcastle, and threatened the occupants with the realistic-looking gun, demanding cash and valuables
Six days later, four of them held up a doctor at gunpoint with the same fake weapon on Armstrong Bridge, Jesmond, forcing him to hand over his wallet and jacket.
Police said later that the victims believed the weapon was real and were left extremely shaken by the traumatic experience.
Dillan Cooper, 16, and Kieron Smith, 17, were charged with being involved with both the aggravated burglary and the robbery, while Adam Devlin, 19, was also charged with the Cardigan Terrace aggravated burglary.
Wayne Scott, 19, and Bradley Bulman, 17, were both charged with the Armstrong Bridge robbery.
Cooper and Smith both received six years for the two offences, while Scott was sentenced to four years and Devlin and Bowman received three years and four months each for the ones they were involved in.
Detectives used Facebook to help them catch the criminals after watching the footage of them bragging and handling the fake gun, albeit with their identities hidden.
After raiding their homes, police found computers and searched the hard drives, as well as evidence from films captured on their mobile phones.
They even found the distinctive clothes the hapless would-be gangsters wore while they carried out the hold-ups.
Detective Constable Kev Ashurst, who led the investigation into both incidents, said proving exactly which yob was at each crime scene was "complex".
"We were able to piece it all together and our inquiries led to us identifying them as being responsible for the relevant offences," he said.
"These boys thought they were some sort of crew when in reality they were just cowards who carried out two despicable crimes.
"It didn't take us long to make the arrests and put a stop to their behaviour.
"Thankfully, Northumbria doesn't have the same issue with gangs and gun crime that other areas of the country have and people like these are few and far between.
"There's just no place for this sort of mentality in Newcastle or the force and this result shows that when we do get people such as this we will deal with them appropriately and have them put before the courts.
"This sentence should be a message for others that if they use threatening, intimidating or violent behaviour towards others they will be punished. The city is a safer place with these five behind bars."Reuse content