Five men have been sentenced to 60 years for their part in a series of violent robberies and burglaries at houses and shops across North Staffordshire – including one in Leek.
In one burglary at an address in Tunstall, the householder was tied up and had petrol poured over him as the burglars threatened to ignite it, Stafford Crown Court heard.
In another burglary in Barlaston, a man was threatened with a sword and required surgery for damage to his thumb tendons after he tried to fend off a thrust at his chest.
Seven robberies and five burglaries took place in all, at betting shops, convenience stores and houses in a three-month period from November 2016.
Craig Trow was given a 22-year extended sentence, with 18 years to be served in custody, at Stafford Crown Court on May 16. He was found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery on 17 October following a trial at Stafford Crown Court.
Sentencing, Judge Salmon, said: “This was a conspiracy to commit robberies of houses and convenience stores across Staffordshire.
“Weapons were brandished and threats made to staff. There was obvious terror of the staff involved.”
Liam Kamara, Jordan Grocott, and Blurton brothers Sonny and Brandon Williams, all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery in an earlier hearing at Stafford Crown Court.
Kamara was also sentenced for affray and theft. Sonny Williams was also sentenced for a wounding where he bit a man’s ear, possessing an offensive weapon and bail offences.
Aaron Forrester and Sophie Wilson pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of converting criminal property taken in the raids.
• Craig Trow, aged 29, of Wellington Street in Hanley, 22 years extended sentence, 18 years in custody.
• Liam Kamara, aged 28, of Moorville Close, Fenton, extended sentence 16 years 6 months extended, 12 years 6 months in custody.
• Jordan Grocott, aged 25, NFA, sentenced to 9 years, 5 years custodial.
• Sonny Williams, aged 20, of Roundway, Blurton, sentenced to 4 years.
• Brandon Williams, aged 24, of Roundway, Blurton, sentenced to 9 years, 5 years custodial.
• Aaron Forrester, aged 22, of Critchlow Grove, Blurton, and Sophie Wilson, aged 24, of Yardley Place, Blurton, both sentenced to 12-month community order with 200 hours’ unpaid work.
On May 16, Stafford Crown Court heard the crime spree began on 10 November 2016 and involved a number of venues across North Staffordshire including Premier Stores, in Queens Drive, Leek.
The court heard that the crime spree began when men barged their way into a house in Beckton Avenue, Tunstall, and threatened the householder with a machete, before tying him up, striking him with a baseball bat and pouring petrol over him and threatening to ignite it.
They stole phones, cash and keys and a digital camera before fleeing.
Two days later, on 12 November, two men threatened staff with a knife at the Coral betting shop in King Street, Fenton, and stole £700.
A similar robbery followed at Bargain Booze in Kidsgrove on 20 November, before the men targeted Coral betting shop in Hanley Road, Sneyd Green the following day. Staff were threatened with a hammer and £2,800 was taken.
In December 2016 a house in Lawn Farm Crescent, Bentilee, was burgled on two occasions. On 5 December a man burst into Bargain Booze in Thistleberry Avenue, Clayton, holding a five-inch serrated knife. He took money from the till.
On 28 December another Bargain Booze shop – in Brough Lane, Trentham – was robbed at knifepoint and around £350 cash and cigarettes stolen.
The men struck four more times in January 2017, with robberies at Premier Stores, in Queens Drive, Leek, and the Co-op store in Wimbourne Avenue, Newstead.
On 7 January four men in balaclavas forced their way into a house in Longton Road, Barlaston, threatening the occupant with a sword. He was made to hand over cash and suffered injuries to his thumbs as he tried to push the sword away from his chest.
On 9 January a householder in Louvain Avenue, Sneyd Green, was woken by smashing glass and struck to the head by men demanding money.
Officers were able to build a case after making arrests and seizing clothing and property for forensic examination. They also seized property, including a distinctive designer watch taken in a Barlaston raid.
Detective Inspector Adrian Webb, of Staffordshire Police, said: “We’re glad these men have received lengthy sentences.
“These were very serious incidents where petrol and weapons, including baseball bats, knives and swords, were used to threaten and assert control.
“The actions of these men could’ve been life-threatening, such was the degree of violence used.
“Indeed, in several of these cases the victims felt as if their lives were threatened during the commission of these crimes and it was a terrifying experience for them. We commend the bravery of the victims in helping us to build this case and work with prosecutors to bring them to justice.”