THREE armed robbers are starting jail terms totalling 51 years thanks to the bravery of members of the public who tackled them as they fled a jewellers in Leeds.
A judge praised the public spirited actions of the three have-a-go heroes who were captured on CCTV as they helped detain one of the criminals which led to to the downfall of the rest of the gang.
Estonian nationals Alar Kajurand, 44, Rainis Kilk, 26, and Tamair Uibopuu, 30, were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court after being found guilty of a robbery conspiracy in which high value watches worth almost £1m were stolen at gunpoint.
The conspiracy involved robberies at Berry’s jewellery store on Albion Street, Leeds, on March 24 and Watches of Switzerland on Oxford Street, London, on February 25 this year.
The actions of the three men, Dsoume Diallo, Issa Sila and James Pass, were praised by the judge as Kajurand, Uibopuu and Kilk were jailed at Leeds Crown Court. Kajurand and Kilk were both sentenced to 18 years and Uibopuu was given a 15-year term.
Mr Pass, from Leeds, who is seen in CCTV images wearing the baseball cap, said after the hearing: “I was with my girlfriend and we were walking through Leeds on our way to a meditation class.
“As she walked past the jewellers she knew something was wrong and said ‘that’s a robbery’.
“At first I thought she had noticed something wrong with the prices or something, but as I went over to take a closer look I saw a hand grabbing at all the watches.
“She pulled me to the side of the building and I told her to call the police.
“The next thing I knew there was someone coming out of the jewellers and I was aware of a man pointing and shouting and I just saw one of the robbers come towards me.
“He was getting away so I grabbed him and put him in a bearhug and pulled him down as the other man tried to grab his coat, but the robber was slipping out of his grasp.
“I put him in an arm lock and held him there until the police came.
“At the time I didn’t know if he had a gun or a knife and I thought if he is going to stab me then it is now.
Mr Pass, who is partially sighted, said he couldn’t see how many robbers there initially were.
He said: “I didn’t know how many people were in the jewellers and if they were going to come out and start shooting.
“I got to the ground with him [Uibopuu] and thought they were going to come after me and because of my eyesight I thought it would be pretty quick as I won’t see them coming.
“As I held him to the ground people on the phone to the police were trying to give descriptions but he kept his face to the ground.
“Before my eyesight went I used to wrestle so that came in handy as I knew how to overcome him.”
Mr Pass, who lost his hat and glasses during the melee, said: “There was nothing more I could do and to be honest I was more worried about my hat and my glasses coming off as they went flying as we tumbled down.
“Also I was in need of a haircut and my hair was all over the place.
“I’m just happy that no one was hurt and I’m glad they have been convicted.”
Recorder Michael Slater praised the actions of trio who helped detain Uibopuu.
He said: “They were members of the public who were on their lawful business when the robbery happened.
“Without any thoughts for their own personal safety, they were able to detain Uibopuu until the arrival of the police and set in motion the investigation of the police.
“This shows consummate public spiritedness.
“One cannot speak too highly of the members of the public involved in this case.”
The three, all from Leeds, were each awarded £750 from public funds for their actions.
A security guard who intervened in the robbery in London also received the same reward.
Watches worth £935,000 were stolen in the Leeds robbery. The court heard 64 of the watches were later recovered but £450,000 worth of watches remain outstanding.
Describing the raids, Recorder Slater said: “Although none of you three was an organiser, each of you participated in at least one of them with premeditation, determination and resolve.
“Each of you comes from Estonia and each of you came from that country with the specific purpose of robbing one or the other of those stores.”
The robbery at Berry’s happened just after 6pm. Kajurand was caught on CCTV wearing a wig as he approached the security door before producing a gun as staff and security guard backed away.
Kilk and Uibopuu then entered the store armed with hammers and smashed glass display cases before taking watches. Members of the public detained Uibopuu on Albion Street while Kajurand and Kilk caught a train to Manchester from Leeds rail station.
The robbery at Watches of Switzerland on Oxford Street, London, took place just after 6pm on Wednesday February 25.
The jury was shown still images from CCTV footage and were told one of the images showed two robbers in the doorway of the premises.
Six Cartier watches worth just under £30,000 were stolen in that robbery.
During the trial Kajurand told the jury he believed he was taking part in an insurance scam. He claimed he had been beaten up and thought he would be killed if he did not take part. Kajurand said he was beaten up and said threats were made against his relatives in Estonia.