SIX of Glasgow's most ruthless criminals, convicted of a vicious armed robbery attempt, were yesterday given long jail sentences after a trial staged amid unprecedented security.
Helicopters shadowed the gang, said to be well-known figures in the underworld, to and from the Old Bailey courtroom, which was ringed by police. Officers also watched from the public gallery.
The tight security came after an earlier trial was aborted after allegations that an escape was planned and threats had been made to kill the barristers and the judge.
The Old Bailey was told that staff were terrorised in the failed bank raid. One clerk had her hair torn out when a shotgun was fired near her head.
The gang's ringleader, Michael Healy, 31, was jailed for 19 years, the sentence to run consecutively with a 10-year term imposed in Glasgow in 1987 for a shotgun raid on a post office. He escaped in a butcher's van from Shotts prison in December 1988.
Healy led a 'terrifying and highly professional' assault on a National Westminster bank in Torquay, Devon, in May 1991, with the five other defendants, the court was told.
They expected a pounds 1m 'pay day' from their highly sophisticated scheme after getting into the bank and hiding in a specially constructed cubby hole beneath stairs.
'They waited all night and ambushed bank staff the following morning, Neil Butterworth QC, for the prosecution, said. 'They were ambushed by ruthless and determined men, who set about terrorising the staff by using threats and actual violence.'
Two female members of staff were dragged by the hair up to the vault and told to open it, but both protested they could not because they had no keys. A male worker was ordered at gunpoint to tell the robbers where the keys were but refused.
The gang eventually gave up and fled but were caught later because a witness noted the number plate of their getaway car.
All six gang members were convicted of conspiracy to rob.
Michael Carroll was sentenced to 18 years; Ian McDonald, 32, Thomas Carrigan, 30, Robert Harper, 27, and Healy's brother James, 27, were all given 16-year sentences.
Carrigan's and Harper's sentences will run concurrently to 17-year terms imposed on them at Norwich in May for two bank robberies.