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Thieves jailed after stealing perfume from Whitstable chemists

By Paul Hooper

A gang of four thieves swiped £1,500 worth of perfumes after carrying out a smash and grab raid at a Whitstable chemists.

But police officers were on the scent of the crooks and arrested them within minutes of the attack in High Street.

Now the four – who have more than 460 previous offences on their records – have been jailed after admitting the burglary in December last year.

John Brazil. Picture: Kent Police
John Brazil. Picture: Kent Police
John Crittenden. Picture: Kent Police
John Crittenden. Picture: Kent Police

Father of five Stephen Bignall, 37, of Middletune Avenue, Sittingbourne; John Brazil, 28, of no fixed address; John Crittenden, 40, of Laburnum Place, Sittingbourne and Sean Reed, 44, also of no fixed address, had carried out the raid before escaping in a stolen car.

But after receiving jail sentences, some of the four began screaming abuse at Judge James O’Mahony, including : “You’re a sh*tbag” and “f*** you!”

The judge warned them that were in danger of being held in contempt of court and they retorted: “Come on then..do it!” before being escorted to the cells.

He had told them earlier: “You are not mastermind criminals, but you are highly prolific offenders. None of you are very good at it. You should have learned that by now. Your previous offences are of epic proportions.

“It’s about time you thought about another way of life!”

Prosecutor Michael Hillman told Canterbury Crown Court that the attack happened at 12.27am on December 30 last year at Cheadles Chemists in Whitstable when the four, armed with a hammer and metal pole, smashed their way causing thousands of pounds worth of damage.

The raid was caught on CCTV and the gang then smashed display cabinets and stole perfume and aftershave bottles before escaping in a stolen Peugeot 207 driven by Crittenden.

Sean Reed. Picture: Kent Police
Sean Reed. Picture: Kent Police
Stephen Bignall. Picture: Kent Police
Stephen Bignall. Picture: Kent Police

Mr Hillman said police spotted the vehicle at 12.30am and followed as it headed towards Faversham along Park Street.

During the 50 mph chase the gang drove through a wooden barrier and onto a recreation ground in a bid to escape.

Police tracked the abandoned car at 12.45am and a police dog picked up the men’s scent and led officers to an address in Edward Vinson Drive in Faversham.

Bignall and Reed were arrested and Brazil was found hiding in a shed in the garden with a duvet and the stolen perfumes.

Mr Hillman said Crittenden was spotted 50 yards away and also arrested.

His Honour Judge James O'Mahony
His Honour Judge James O'Mahony

He added that the keys to the Peugeot had been stolen earlier in December but the car wasn’t taken until a few days before the raid.

Bignall, who was also sent to court for sentence for two other thefts of coats stores in Sheerness store and Gillingham, has committed 146 previous offences. He was jailed for three years and 10 months.

“You are not mastermind criminals, but you are highly prolific offenders. None of you are very good at it" - Judge James O'Mahony

Crittenden, with 147 previous offences, also admitted driving dangerously received a four year four month sentence. He was also given a three year driving ban which begins after he is released.

Shopfitter Reed had 131 previous offences and was also in breach of a previous court order. He was given a three year and four month sentence and the judge added another 150 days in prison for the breach.

And Brazil, with 40 previous offences, received a three year sentence and an extra 180 days for breach of two suspended sentences.

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