A rookie robber who raided a Leeds betting shop after reading an online guide called How to Rob a Bank has been jailed for 11 years.
Gregory Dike had no previous criminal convictions before hatching a plan to carry out a string of armed heists.
The 38-year-old downloaded crime guides including How to Rob a Bank and the Two Minute Rule – based on the maximum time thieves reckon they can spend at a job before police arrive.
He put his research into action for the first time on March 10 last year when he threatened two female cashiers at Betfred in Swarcliffe Parade, Swarcliffe, with an imitation gun and escaped with £175.
Three days later the Londoner made a failed attempt to hold up a Barclays in Liverpool, but the following day got away with £1,000 from a Lloyds in nearby Tuebrook after putting the gun to a customer’s head.
On March 24 he bagged £4,300 from a Lloyds in Ickenham, Middlesex, but came unstuck on April 17 when fleeing with £1,000 from NatWest in High Street, Rowley Regis, after pulling a hunting knife on a customer.
A brave member of the public gave chase, asked a passer-by to dial 999 and followed Dike, from Alric Avenue near Brent Park, to a taxi he’d ordered to wait in a back street.
Dike ran into nearby gardens – the cabbie refusing to move on realising he was being used as a getaway driver – and emerged minutes later minus his boiler suit.
He tried car-jacking two motorists, including a pensioner dragged from his vehicle, but was quickly wrestled to the ground by two West Midlands Police officers who’d been scrambled to the scene.
Dike’s holdall was found to contain his boiler suit, crash helmet, handcuffs, hunting knife, and two smoke bombs.
At Wolverhampton Crown Court today unemployed Dike was jailed having admitted four robberies, an attempted robbery, and firearms offences.
Detective Constable Darren Brown, said: “It’s unclear what led a man, who was seemingly of good character for 38 years, to suddenly carry out such violent robberies.
“He was undoubtedly a beginner – we found robbery ‘self-help’ downloads on his phone – but he’d done a lot of research and made efforts to cover his tracks. He used various aliases when booking hotels and taxis and struck across the country in the hope it would be difficult for police forces to make links.
“Crucially, though, we found a hotel room key card in his holdall which we traced to a B&B in Acocks Green – and when we asked if any male guests had left abruptly, a receptionist handed over a bag that housekeeping had found in Dike’s room.
“A key found on Dike opened the bag’s small padlock and inside we found the BB gun used during three of the robberies, plus his driver’s licence and home address details in London.”
A search of the address uncovered a balaclava worn during the BetFred attack, bus tickets for Leeds and a diary containing the name ‘Mark French’ which he’d used to book a hotel and taxi in Yorkshire.
Detective Inspector Richard Holmes, of Leeds District CID, said: “When Dike committed the first offence of this series in Leeds we conducted enquiries which identified the taxi firm he had used to travel to the robbery and the mobile number he had booked it from.
“That number was also used to book a room at a nearby hotel on the day of the robbery in the name of Mark French. CCTV from the hotel also showed the guest physically matched the male from the robbery.
“We identified an address in London but at about the same time West Midlands Police informed other forces of Dike’s arrest by them. He was then matched to the CCTV from the hotel.
“Officers from Leeds searched his address in north London and recovered the balaclava worn in the robbery, bus tickets for his journeys to Leeds and Liverpool and a diary containing details linked to the crimes, including the name Mark French, the phone number he used and a false address he gave to the hotel.
“Dike clearly put a lot of planning into these offences and thought that by committing them across different police force areas he would be harder to track down but good detective work uncovered the evidence that linked him to the crimes.”