Published: 18:00, 28 February 2019
| Updated: 13:33, 01 March 2019
Two violent convicted robbers who held-up a cash-in-transit van with a machete to steal almost £16,000 have been jailed for a total of 16 years and three months.
Wearing a balaclava and wielding the "fearsome" weapon, Peter Henderson confronted Loomis security driver Denis Hayward during the daylight raid at the Shell service station in Malling Road, Snodland.
The 36-year-old's criminal record includes five other robbery-related offences and the court heard he was on licence from an eight-year prison sentence at the time.
This was imposed for his part in a G4S security van raid as well as a series of robberies which netted him and fellow gang members, who posed as firefighters and included an ex-Met police officer, £43,000.
The 'junior partner' in the Loomis robbery on September 17 last year was Christopher Downey.
He acted as the getaway driver in a stolen Peugeot Boxer van later found abandoned and damaged but with the engine still running at nearby lock-up garages.
The court heard the 35-year-old was also involved in the raid's 'meticulous' planning, which included carrying out a 'reccy' of the target site a week earlier and cutting an 'escape' hole in a surrounding fence.
The two men, who between them have a total of 69 previous convictions for 163 offences, admitted robbery of a cash cassette containing £15,850. None of the money was recovered.
Both Henderson, who was described as an 'habitual' cash-in-transit robber, and Downey also pleaded guilty to having a bladed article, namely the machete, and handling stolen goods in respect of the Peugeot van.
It had been stolen by a third man two weeks earlier and fitted with false number plates for the purpose of carrying out the raid.
Henderson, who has 40 previous convictions for 94 offences, was jailed for eight years and three months, to which he replied: "Lovely. Thank you."
As he was led from the dock grinning, he told two women in the public gallery: "Smile. That's well good."
Downey, who has 29 previous convictions for 69 offences, was jailed for eight years.
"It was a fearsome weapon and not surprisingly, when Mr Hayward was told to 'drop the box' or words to that effect, he complied without any hesitation and ran behind his van to take cover..." - Judge Philip Statman
Passing sentence today, Judge Philip Statman said: "This was a skilled and premeditated robbery. It is very good fortune that no one was injured.
"It was effectively the quick-thinking, good common sense and, dare I say, the bravery of the security guard that he was able to escape from your clutches uninjured."
Prosecutor Richard Mandel told Maidstone Crown Court that the robbery occurred at about 9.20am when the experienced Loomis employee was an hour into his round.
Mr Hayward had parked his van in a filling bay and was walking back to the vehicle with the collected cash when he was confronted by Henderson.
"He heard someone shouting and at first he took no notice. But then he realised the shouting was directed at him," said Mr Mandel.
"He looked and, as it turned out, was Peter Henderson in dark clothes, wearing a balaclava and brandishing a machete.
"It was a fearsome weapon and not surprisingly, when Mr Hayward was told to 'drop the box' or words to that effect, he complied without any hesitation and ran behind his van to take cover.
"Henderson then picked up the cassette and made his way rapidly to a gap in the fence which wasn't fortuitously there but had been made specifically for the purpose of this robbery.
"The Crown's case is that this was a meticulously planned robbery.
"Quite apart from the obtaining of the getaway van, the changing of number plates, the involvement of a balaclava and machete, and the manufacture of the gap, there was a reccying of the service station by the two defendants.
"This was precisely a week before the robbery and carried out so the defendants could exactly work out when, where, how, and so on."
The machete was later found behind the driver's seat in the abandoned getaway van which, in its haste to escape, had collided with a brick wall.
Judge Statman further praised Mr Hayward's "highly sensible and proper" reaction to the robbery, the first in his long career.
He said: "His eye was on the machete and he took the view, very sensibly, to just let the money go and retreat.
"While having to cope with what was a terrifying experience, he has behaved in a commendable way."
Henderson, a scaffolder from Farmway, in Dagenham, Essex, was arrested on October 11 driving a stolen Fiat 500.
It was unconnected to the Loomis raid but the court heard when pulled over by police he confessed to being a wanted man.
He later admitted handling stolen goods in relation to that vehicle.
Downey, of Ibscott Close, Dagenham, was arrested on November 3. Both men were said to have told "a pack of lies" when interviewed by police.
The court heard Henderson was released from his eight-year jail term in February 2015, having served just over four years.
Downey's previous convictions include robbing a pensioner at a cashpoint in November 2013, and the £20,000 robbery committed with Henderson of the G4S security van outside a NatWest bank in Dagenham in October 2010 for which he was jailed for three years.
DI James Derham of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "This was a carefully planned crime that netted a considerable amount of cash.
"A thorough investigation including the meticulous examination of CCTV footage allowed us to track down the offenders and ensure they were brought to justice.
"Henderson and Downey showed no regard for the impact their actions would have on the security guard and it is right that they are now serving a lengthy prison sentence.
"I would like to thank the victim and witnesses who assisted us throughout the investigation."
More by this authorJulia Roberts