A robbery gang who used knives, hammers and even a running chainsaw as they targeted Asian jewellers across West Yorkshire have been jailed for a total of 57 years.
The gang of four attacked back-street businesses in Wakefield, Batley and Huddersfield and made off with haul worth about £250,000.
Leeds Crown Court heard a raid on WS Jewellers, in Carlton Street, Wakefield, involved a robber brandishing a running chainsaw to frighten off people passing by while masked men armed with sledgehammers, pick axes and knives plundered the store.
Gang members Patrick “Mandy” Lowther 33, Steven Barker, 35, and Garner Smith, 33, were all jailed for 16 years after being convicted of conspiracy to rob. Fellow plotter John Boy Morrison, 40 was jailed for nine years.
Jailing the men, Judge Tom Bayliss QC, said: “The target of this conspiracy was a number of Asian jewellery shops in the area of West Yorkshire.
“The distinction between such shops and high street jewellers is they are often in quiet residential areas and often occupied by (lone) proprietors.
“In other words they present a soft target. But these yield valuable rewards to men like you.”
The robbers first struck at Sona Jewellers in Blacker Road, Huddersfield, on February 25 last year, arriving at closing time in a stolen Land Rover.
Carrying hammers, they broke in and funnelled the gems into builders’ bags.
Their next raid was at Assad Jewellers in Purlwell Lane, Batley, on March 8. They were armed with pieces of wood and a large knife and tried to force their way in by reversing a VW Transporter through the door.
The owners managed to keep them out but one member of staff suffered a slash to his arm. He needed hospital treatment but was not seriously injured.
In their last raid they stole £150,000 worth of jewellery and £4,000 cash from jeweller Nasir Hussain in Wakefield after smashing their way inside the premises.
All four defendants denied conspiracy to rob but were convicted after a three-week trial.
The court heard the lengthy jail sentences would hit the defendants’ families hard.
The judge accepted that Morrison, of Cottingley Springs caravan site, Gildersome, was less involved than the others. The father-of three had also lost his wife to illness during the case.
Judge Bayliss, turning to Lowther, of Castle Gardens, Rothwell, Barker, of Merchant Court, East Bowling, Bradford, and Smith, of Montrose Street, Bolton Woods, Bradford, said: “All of you are men who offend prolifically and sophisticatedly and determinedly.
“You have been involved in organised crime in the past.”
After the case Detective Inspector Paul Harrison of Wakefield CID, said: “A dedicated police team from Wakefield have been instrumental in bringing to justice an organised and violent crime gang.
“The gang planned each job meticulously and travelled throughout the West Yorkshire area identifying their targets, who were vulnerable jewellers, and used excessive force to get what they wanted.
“On one occasion innocent bystanders were threatened with an activated chainsaw.”