Published: 18:11, 12 November 2018
| Updated: 18:12, 12 November 2018
A gang of thugs who raided a travellers' site while heavily armed have been jailed for a total of over 200 years.
The 14 robbers terrified men, women, children and babies living at the site in Lenham near Maidstone.
A judge described it as “bold, audacious, determined and exceptional”.
Maidstone Crown Court heard in a series of trials how the raiders wore masks and went equipped with tape, latex gloves, torches, cable ties and demolition bars bought from B&Q and Poundland shortly before.
Victims were bound and one couple had guns held to their heads in front of their young son, who awoke on hearing the commotion. He pleaded: “Daddy, please don't let them kill me.”
Dad-of-seven Moses Smith was battered with a truncheon and handgun and then kicked and struck with a crowbar and baseball bat and stabbed in his arm and thigh.
But the attackers fled from Wheat Gratten Stable Yards in the village when the residents fought back.
They gave chase across a field and rammed get-away cars, leaving some so damaged they could not be driven away.
The yard situated in the countryside was stormed in the late evening of April 26, 2016.
It was alleged the armed robbers also brandished a sawn-off shotgun and handgun, although there were no convictions for firearms offences.
Police were able to identify 17 suspects and 14 were eventually convicted and jailed for conspiracy to rob in trials spanning over two years.
The case can now be reported in full after the final sentence was passed on today on one of the main organisers, Junior Shawki Tamakloe.
The 32-year-old, from London, admitted conspiracy to rob and was sentenced to 13-and-a-half years.
Two of the fourteen robbers came from Kent - Darren Myers, 33, of Valley Road, Tunbridge Wells and Jake Jenks, 23, of Allan Close Tunbridge Wells.
Myers was jailed for 21 years and Jenks for 14 years.
Previous prison sentences were: Aaron Mayers, 31, from Hackney, East London, who was given 16 years; Nana Danquah, 31, from Potters Bar, Hertfordshire, 18 years; Connor Miller, 22, no fixed address, 13 years; Lee Baker, 29, from Eastbourne, 12 years; Nyake Alieu, 33, from Eastbourne, 16 years; Brady Dewson, 26,12 years; Ahmed Ali, 23, from London, 13 years; Jheryl Long, 24, from London, 16 years; Glenn Kenny, 25, from Suffolk, nine years and four months; John Smillie, 25, from Walthamstow, East London, and Faisal Issah, 24, from Tottenham, North London, 14 years each.
Prosecutor Nina Ellin told jurors the masked raiders were clad in dark clothing and armed with weapons, including a sawn-off shotgun, a handgun, iron bars and a machete.
"They demanded large sums of money at gunpoint,” she said. “They terrorised the occupants of the caravans, which included women and young children. One man was brutally attacked.”
The victims fought back as shots were fired, vehicles were rammed “and the attackers withdrew into the night".
Groups of the robbers came from London, Kent, Sussex and Essex before they all converged on the yard.
Vincent Stickings, 31, from Thamesmead, South London, Kieon Barker, 24, of Stoke Newington, North East London, and Irasto Yoxall, 32, of Bethnal Green, East London, were cleared of any involvement.
Judge Julian Smith said when passing sentence today: “This offence was clearly the result of a good deal of planning and careful organisation. It was a bold, even audacious, plan involving a mass attack on the traveller site by a group of armed, masked and determined attackers following a shared plan, and prepared to use significant force, either themselves or intending that others in their group should do so.
“It may not be clear who was responsible for the original idea, but it is obvious and perfectly clear from the very substantial phone communication, the meeting the day before, the reconnaissance and the purchases made of items by individuals that were later shared among the group, that the actions of the attackers were co-ordinated to achieve maximum impact.”
Judge Smith said although he accepted the raid was not his brainchild, he had played a key role and linked the teams in London and Kent.
He added: “There can be no doubt they undertook this attack in anticipation of a significant reward and were ready and equipped to use extreme force to achieve it.
“They were uniformly dressed in dark clothing, and were masked and gloved, thereby reducing the risk of detection or recognition while at the same time increasing the level of intimidation upon their victims.
“They believed themselves ready and able to subdue the residents with pre-prepared cable tie quick-cuffs, weapons, threats and numbers. The obvious inference is the attackers expected large sums of money to be on site, hidden but recoverable, and certainly sufficient to justify this level of preparation in the expectation of a share of the proceeds.”
One spoke of “a life-changing’ reward”.
But said the judge: “This was also not going to be a target where the residents would necessarily be easily cowed into submission.”
Detective Inspector James Derham, a senior investigating officer for this case, said "These men subjected three families to extreme levels of violence which left them in fear that they would be killed.
"The ordeals the victims were subjected to were terrifying and it has taken a huge amount of courage to speak out against these men.
"The level of violence used shows the offenders to be a very real threat to society and it is fit and proper that they now face a substantial amount of time in custody.
"I would like to thank the victims for the support they have given to this investigation. It has helped put together a strong and compelling case which has secured these entirely appropriate sentences.
"This case shows the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate will relentlessly pursue organised crime groups operating in this county and bring those responsible before the courts."
More by this authorKeith Hunt