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Ramsgate Coral raid orchestrated by betting shop worker Natalie Solari

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A mum-of-two who masterminded an armed robbery at the bookies she worked in has been jailed for 12 years.

The raid on a bookmakers in Newington Road, Ramsgate, saw robber Tyler McNeill point an imitation firearm at manager Natalie Solari, 30, and scream: “I’ve got a gun, do as I say everyone, stay where you are and nobody gets hurt.”

Robbers burst into the branch

Appearing terrified, Solari scrambled £11,000 onto the shop counter as McNeill barked orders - customers watched on.

McNeill, 26, fled the Ramsgate Coral store with metal-bar-wielding accomplice 39-year-old Daniel O’Reilly, aided by getaway driver Simon Bennett, 29.

In the coming months, detectives would discover the mother of two young children - who had never been in trouble with the law - masterminded the heist.

A court heard police discovered ties between Solari, McNeill and O’Reilly, and became suspicious over the large sum of cash available at the shop.

Bookmakers tend to urge staff to move money off the premises daily to minimise the chance of a raid, a court heard.

Natalie Solari
Natalie Solari

Detectives also became suspicious that Solari was the only worker that afternoon - betting shops typically have multiple employees on site.

Despite Solari’s “very effective performance” caught on CCTV during the raid, she would soon turn from victim to suspect.

Detectives revealed numerous texts between her, NcNeill and O’Reilly on the lead up to the robbery last August.

Phone records also revealed she set up Bennett’s Renault Megane getaway car and told the crooks when to strike.

The probe also revealed Solari had been stacking the shop-takings for a number of days rather than banking the cash.

Simon Bennett and Tyler McNeill
Simon Bennett and Tyler McNeill

Meanwhile, phone records showed McNeill and O’Reilly had been to Solari’s Thanet address moments before the raid.

Solari denied the crime but was found guilty of conspiracy to robbery at trial earlier this year.

Judge James O’Mahony called the heist a “professional job” and voiced regret Solari’s two children will suffer.

Appearing via videolink, she became visibly upset as sentencing was passed.

“It is a shame you didn’t plead guilty.

“It is the hardest part of this job, sending a mother of children to prison.

“I conclude, and I’m sure, Natalie Solari played a leading role in planning the organisation of the robbery,” the judge told Canterbury Crown Court.

“It is a shame you didn’t plead guilty. It is the hardest part of this job, sending a mother of children to prison..." - Judge James O'Mahony

Mitigating, John Barker argued Solari was unaware an imitation firearm would be used, but Judge O’Mahony cast doubt over the claim.

The judge added: “You’ve got disguises, planning, organisation, discussions at your clients’ home, obtaining the car, all that indicates to me that it is squarely professional.”

On Friday, September 21, 2018 the getaway vehicle was clamped by the DVLA in St Luke’s Avenue, Ramsgate for lack of road tax and taken to a compound. Police found Bennett and McNeill’s DNA in the vehicle.

On Tuesday, December 11, 2018 Solari, of Maynard Avenue in Margate and Bennett, of no fixed address were arrested in connection with the robbery. McNeill of Queens Road in Aylesham was arrested in Maidstone on February16 and O’Reilly of Beverley Gardens in Dymchurch was interviewed by police on May 13.

McNeill and O’Reilly each pleaded guilty to charges of robbery and the possession of an imitation firearm.

Natalie Solari (17428355)
Natalie Solari (17428355)

Bennett and Solari were also charged with the robbery but denied the offences.

Solari claimed she did know McNeill but had no idea he was responsible for the robbery and had not recognised his voice at the time.

Bennett voiced a different story, he told police Solari had planned the robbery and sent McNeill messages at the time telling him the safe was unlocked and that they should hurry up.

Bennett told officers that although he drove McNeill and O’Reilly to the bookmakers that day he didn’t know at the time that he was part of a robbery.

Their trial concluded on Monday, June 17 at Canterbury Crown Court where both Bennett and Solari were found guilty by a jury and all four thieves were sentenced together at the same court today.

Along with Solari's 12-year sentence Bennett received five years in prison, McNeill was jailed for eight-and-a-half years and O’Reilly received seven-and-a-half years.

Detective Inspector James Derham from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: "These people worked together to steal from and deceive Solari’s employer. They carried out a robbery that would have looked terrifying to the innocent and unsuspecting members of the public both inside and outside the bookmakers at that time.

"Solari claimed to be a victim in this ordeal but was caught out due to the diligence and hard work of officers investigating the case.

"Thankfully a jury saw through her account along with Bennett’s. Their gamble didn’t pay off and all four of them will now spend time in prison

"Violent crimes will simply not be tolerated and Kent Police remains committed to identifying those people involved and gathering all the evidence possible to ensure a conviction."

Read more: All the latest news from Thanet

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