A “ruthless and violent” gang of robbers who terrorised pub and restaurant staff in a series of raids across Leeds have today been jailed for a total of more than 50 years.
Six men carried out a string of violent, armed robberies to fund their gambling habits during a six-week spree last year.
Victims were ordered to hand over cash from tills or safes by the masked thugs, who carried weapons included knives, machetes and meat cleavers.
Several of the attacks were caught on CCTV as the gang managed to take around £20,000.
In one shocking raid, a pub land lord was attacked inside his pub as an eight-year-old boy, who had been sitting at a table playing with his toy cars, looked on in horror.
Manchester Crown Court heard how much of the stolen cash was gambled away at casinos in Leeds.
Describing the raids, judge John Potter said: “Knives, hammers, iron bars, machetes and meat cleavers were used to frighten or cause injury if victims did not comply with demands.
“Ruthless and violent behaviour was used towards innocent victims.”
The gang – Darren Phelan, Thomas Silverwood, Jermaine Wilkes, Michael Bennett, Liam O’Neil and Daniel Lyons – robbed six venues in August and September last year: the Bridge Inn, Horsforth; the Myrtle Tavern, Meanwood; The Travellers Rest, Armley; The Dalesman, West Park; The Angel Inn, Rothwell and Gusto restaurant in Cookridge.
There were also five attempted robberies during the same six-week period. Two further attacks were also planned.
Prosecutor Christoper Terani QC said: “They were happy to threaten and use violence against any person in order to achieve their aim.”
In the raid on the Travellers Rest landlord Steven Wilson was beaten with an iron bar and threatened before cash was taken.
Lyons fled the scene in disgust after seeing a young boy inside the pub and later gave evidence against his fellow gang members.
The 21-year-old, of Sholebroke Street, Chapeltown, was jailed for four years and nine months for conspiracy to commit robbery.
Phelan, 37, of Carrholm Road, Meanwood, was described as the “mastermind” of the gang. He was sentenced to 15 years – 11 years and 10 months in prison and the rest on licence.
“Chief lieutenant” Silverwood, 19, of Bowood Avenue, Meanwood, was jailed for 12 years.
O’Neil, 21, of Sholebroke View, Chapeltown, was sentenced to eight years.
So-called “foot soldiers” Jermaine Wilkes, 40, of no fixed address, and Michael Bennett, 39, of Reginald Mount, Chapeltown, received sentences of eight years and four years respectively.
Sentencing the gang, Judge Potter said: “You have left a succession of wholly innocent people significantly traumatised by the ordeals you have put them through.”