Ruthless 'inseparable trio' jailed for life

Amy Murphy,Press Association
Friday 12 February 2010 15:41 GMT

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An "inseparable trio of hardcore criminal gang members" who stole more than £1 million from a Securitas van and conspired to murder a 40-year-old man were jailed for life today.

Dennis Slade, 34, Richard Pearman, 35, and Michael Baxter, 34, all from Leeds, were described as "callous, dangerous and ruthless men" as they were sentenced for a string of offences at Leeds Crown Court.

Their crimes included the robbery of the van in Woolston, Warrington, in 2006, using a digger to ram-raid a Post Office in Leeds in 2007 and conspiring to rob a cash machine at a Sainsbury's supermarket in Leeds.

All three were found guilty after a trial last August of conspiring to murder the 40-year-old Leeds man in 2008, arson, criminal damage and handling stolen property.

The defendants were found guilty of the robbery of the Securitas van on March 8, 2006, after a second lengthy trial, which ended last week and was held amid high security.

The jury also found Slade and Pearman guilty of the robbery at the Cross Gates Post Office on December 12, 2007, and two counts of conspiring to commit robbery between January 2007 and March 2008, which included the plot to rob the Sainsbury's store in Colton.

Baxter earlier admitted the Post Office robbery, the conspiracy to rob Sainsbury's and another count of conspiracy to commit robbery.

Judge Paul Hoffman today told Slade, who he described as the "instigator" and "architect" of the crimes, he would serve a minimum sentence of 19 years, 206-and-a-half days after time in custody was taken into account.

Both Pearman and Baxter, described as Slade's "loyal henchmen and followers in crime", were given minimum terms of 17 years, 206-and-a-half days.

Sentencing the defendants, who sat in the dock surrounded by prison officers and chatted to each other throughout the hearing, Judge Hoffman told them: "You three were an inseparable trio of hardcore criminal gang members."

He added: "It's plain all three of you men are dedicated to serious crime. I conclude all three of you are very callous, dangerous and ruthless men, particularly when you act as a gang."

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