Trial of 50-strong gang of jewel thieves begins

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Court hears details of £3.6m raids by highly organised English gang.

The trial of a 51-strong gang of thieves that stole £3.6 million of jewellery in a string of highly organised armed robberies began in London yesterday.

The gang is said to be headed by three brothers – Danny Johnson, Billy Johnson and James Stewart from Eltham and Peckham – who recruited the other members, all described as “long-term associates” and “prolific offenders”.

Along with the brothers, 27 other members of the gang are being tried at Kingston Crown Court in a two-week hearing, with each facing serious jail time. The remaining 21 members, who played lesser roles in the crimes, have already been sentenced in separate trials.

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The gang carried out 34 raids on high-end jewellers in England, mostly in the Southeast, within 18 months. The court how before each attack the gang would carry out rigorous research over the internet and through reconnaissance missions.

Each raid would be carried out by four of five men, with two entering the shop and others remaining in a getaway car. The thieves armed themselves for the raids with weaponry including sledgehammers, axes, CS spray and Taser guns and the raids were completed in under a minute.

Brian O’Neill QC, prosecuting, told the court: "This was a series of professionally planned commercial robberies. Targets were members of staff at high-value jewellery shops and other premises based in affluent shopping areas throughout England and, in once instance, Antwerp in Belgium. "

Not all of the gang’s attempts were successful, with the gang leaving empty-handed on some occasions. However, one robbery at a jewellers in Bournemouth left the gang with a haul of jewellery and watches worth more than £1 million.

Other targets included jewellers on London’s High Street Kensington, Windsor, Richmond, Maidstone and St Albans.

The prosecution came as a result of investigations by Met Police CID unit The Flying Squad. It is believed to be the Flying Squad’s biggest prosecution to date.

The hearing continues.

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