Soldiers used IRA tactics in 'orgy of serious crime'

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The Independent Online
THREE SOLDIERS who went on an 'orgy of serious crime' after being desensitised by serving in Northern Ireland were each jailed for six years yesterday.

The three Green Jackets used IRA tactics to rob a garage, hijack a car and then rob a post office at gunpoint during the crime spree in August last year, the Old Bailey was told. One of them, Mark Ayers, 19, also firebombed a pub which was said to hold IRA collections.

The other two, Zenon Brown, 20, and Ian Tunks, 20, served, like Ayers, with the 1st Battalion, the Royal Green Jackets, doing four-month tours in Northern Ireland.

They said they carried out the raids to get money for Ayers, who had gone absent without leave and wanted to fight in Bosnia.

On 25 August they robbed pounds 80 from a garage in Buckhurst Hill, Essex, wearing balaclavas and combat jackets. They spent the money on imitation guns.

The next day they ambushed an estate agent in her car in a country lane near Sevenoaks, Kent, but she reversed and drove off when they were distracted by a blackberry picker. Instead, they took the picker's Vauxhall Chevette and left him in the road with his mouth taped.

The next day, the gunmen robbed a post office in Enfield, north London, of just over pounds 5,000 using the stolen Chevette which they set fire to before escaping in Brown's Honda Civic.

Members of the public who gave chase in a car were assaulted by two of the raiders. One witness, however, alerted police on a car phone. Tracked by a helicopter, they stopped and Ayers fired blanks at the aircraft and two policemen on the ground before all three were seized.

Leon Hubbard, a former acting platoon sergeant with the Royal Hampshire Regiment, who had also served in Northern Ireland, described all three as 'typical squaddies'. He said: 'The Army hypes you up through training, telling you to 'kill, kill'. The frustration builds up inside because you have to be an aggressive soldier as well as an understanding person and that is very hard. There is no form of counselling offered by the Army.'

David Nathan, for Tunks, of Bletchley, Buckinghamshire, said his client experienced two suicides of soldiers and was badly beaten by 25 IRA sympathisers while on duty. 'He's doing this while still barely old enough to go into a pub and buy a drink or cigarettes,' he said.

The trio pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob and possession of an imitation firearm. Jailing each man for six years on each count to run concurrently, the Recorder, David Penry-Davey, said that 'at the end of the day behaviour of this sort is wholly unacceptable'.

Ayers, of Buckhurst Hill, pleaded guilty to arson and was jailed for 12 months to run concurrently.

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