Gang who targeted Dover store are convicted of string of offences
The self-taken photo showing one of the gang with a gun.
A gang of four who took part in a series of violent robberies across the country - including one at River - have been found guilty at Maidstone Crown Court today.
The men targeted newsagents and convenience stores in Kent and Sussex stealing money from the safe and taking cigarettes, scratch cards and stamps.
Among their targets was the Co-op store at Lower Road, River, where, on May 4 2012, they entered the shop, threatened a member of staff with a gun and made off with cash and cigarettes.
The gang terrified staff by wearing balaclavas and brandishing knives as well as the handgun that was used at River. They also attacked a house in Lincolnshire with the intention of stealing property from the owner but were bravely fought off by the woman occupant before fleeing the scene.
Despite showing a level of awareness to avoid detection some of the men could not keep their actions to themselves creating a Blackberry Messenger group named “armed robbers” and taking numerous “selfies” - photos of themselves - one of which showed them posing with a handgun.
When detectives swooped on the home of one of the suspects, Terry Sullivan, they seized a number of items including mobile phones.
After examining one of Sullivan’s mobile phones officers found a number of images of Sullivan posing in the same pyjamas worn by a suspect in one of the robberies.
The images of the bright blue pyjama bottoms covered with pictures of cartoon sheep proved a vital clue in the case.
Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate went on to arrest a total of five men for the series of robberies which begun in April 2012. Painstaking enquiries were carried out and officers viewed hours of CCTV.
Between August and September last year the five were arrested for their part in the heists. They were later charged with possessing a firearm with intention to commit an offence and conspiracy to rob.
They are Thomas Balderston, 24, previously of Ernest Road, Chatham, Christopher Aldred, 23, previously of Kellaway Road, Chatham, Christopher Heath, 31, previously of Ernest Road, Chatham, Daniel Jarrett, 24, previously of Maida Road, Chatham and Terry Sullivan, 24, previously of Ernest Road, Chatham.
Previously Heath and Sullivan had admitted their guilt before Maidstone Crown Court. Balderston and Aldred proclaimed their innocence but were found guilty by a jury today. The jury was not able to come to a decision regarding Jarrett.
Overseeing the investigation was Detective Sergeant Andy Nicoll, who said: “The crimes carried out by these four men were violent and often terrified the victims. The offenders were forceful, threatening and brazen and left the staff in those shops feeling that if they did not comply, then serious harm would come to them.
“Despite showing a level of forensic awareness some of the men became sloppy, taking ‘selfies’ on their mobile phones.
Whether this was narcissistic or not, it became their downfall and before long there was a wealth of unquestionable evidence stacking up against them. The men’s desire to parade themselves as gangsters ultimately led them to jail.”
A CCTV image from one of the robberies.
Other offences committed by the men included robberies at a newsagents in Biggin Hill in April 2012, a newsagents in Eastbourne just six days after the River hold-up, a store at Larkfield eight days later, and another newsagents in Chatham on May 29.
At Gravesend, on June 5 2012, four men entered a store and dragged two members of staff to a back office and emptied the safe of £2,500.
That same day the gang attempted a burglary at an isolate rural house near Boston In Lincolnshire where a scuffle ensued involving a chair being thrown across the room. Eventually the men made off empty handed.
The offences involved more than £13,000 cash, £3,500 worth of stamps and more than £3,500 worth of cigarettes.
The men will be sentenced at the beginning of November.
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