An armed moped gang responsible for a spate of smash and grab watch robberies worth £500,000 across the UK is awaiting sentencing after police recovered a doctor’s letter addressed to one of them following a chase.
The gang of seven used concrete blocks and a sledgehammer to smash their way into jewellers and money exchanges whilst brandished a machete in nine raids between February 2014 and January 2015.
The gang’s most high profile raid, at Carr Jewellers in London’s Liverpool Street, in January this year was captured on video by a passerby and showed the store manager grab 6ft 7in raider Alex Parle around the neck before Parle began waving a machete at him. Parle was later arrested after fleeing the scene on foot.
Thomas O’Connor, 23, of Rotherhithe; Conor Gartland, 18, of Southwark, and Alex Parle, 22, also of Southwark, were convicted of conspiracy to rob eight jewellery shops and money transfer exchanges in Southwark, Newham, Tower Hamlets, Kensington and Chelsea, City of London, Kent and Manchester.
In the gang’s first robbery in February 2014, Gartland and another person unknown attempted to rob Akdeniz Jewellers in Walworth Road.
As well as raids in Central London the gang targeted the Cheshire Watch Company, in Manchester City Centre.
Police were able to crack the case in January this year when Parle, Gartland and O’Connor robbed 415 the Jewellers in Orpington, Kent, of jewellery and watches to the value of £37,448.
The gang made their escape in a Range Rover but were pursued by police who found the doctor’s letter addressed to Gartland in the vehicle.
The Metropolitan Police Service has released footage of their robbery at The Jewellers in Crofton Road, Kent in which one member of the gang is seen smashing the shop front with a hammer and stealing jewellery from inside while another, armed with a machete, keeps lookout.
They are due to be sentenced on 15 December at the Old Bailey.
Flying Squad detectives were able to link the offenses and identify the gang using a number of enquiries including forensic analysis of evidence left behind such as helmets, a lighter and a knife.
O’Connor; Gary O’Brien, 22, of Southwark; Michael Ogun, 22, of Enfield; Ricardo Richards, 18, of Southwark; and Jamie Hull, 21 of, Southwark were convicted of conspiracy to rob a jewellers in Tower Hill, following a separate trial.
O’Connor, O’Brien, Ogun, Richards and Hull raided Attenborough Jewellers in Bethnal Green Road, Tower Hamlets on 8 October 2014.
They used a hammer to smash through the window, and stole watches and other jewellery from the displays before driving off in getaway cars. Local officers stopped one of the vehicles and arrested the occupants – O’Brien, Richards and Ogun – for robbery.
Flying Squad detectives then analysed evidence and in doing so were able to prove that O’Connor and Hull had been involved in the robbery. They were subsequently arrested for this matter.
They are due to be sentenced on 20 November at Woolwich Crown Court.
Detective Inspector Nick Blackburn of the Flying Squad said: “O’Connor and his criminal fraternity committed alarmingly violent robberies from the north to the south of England but through collaborative working, the Flying Squad, City of London Police and Greater Manchester Police were able to make the connection and secure convictions.
“These men terrified shop employees, using weapons, aggression and threats in order to get jewellery and cash. There was a display of sheer courage and determination when one of the employees attempted to stop the robbers getting away, but many of the victims now live in fear of another attack.
“I hope that other robbery gangs will look at this case as an example of how police services across the country will work together to ensure they face justice.”