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Sunday 29 May 2016

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Jurors see dramatic video footage of armed robberies at jewellers

Published 23/02/2016

Teesside Crown Court was told a prisoner planned armed robberies from his cell
Teesside Crown Court was told a prisoner planned armed robberies from his cell

Dramatic CCTV footage of two armed robberies said to have been organised on illicit mobile phones by a prisoner in his cell has been played in court.

Designer watches worth £637,000 were stolen in raids on branches of the Market Cross Jewellers in Yarm and Middlesbrough by masked men wielding axes, and a gun on the first robbery, the court heard.

Shop assistants were seen running for cover as four men in black balaclavas sent glass flying as they smashed display cabinets and grabbed Rolex, Omega and Breitling watches worth £515,000 in Yarm in November 2014.

A raid in January last year was halted by staff who activated an alarm which filled the store with smoke. The scenes were caught on an in-store camera and played to the jury at Teesside Crown Court.

Even though they had to flee after only a few seconds, robbers grabbed pieces worth £122,000, and only one has been recovered.

Eight men from Manchester and Teesside have admitted conspiracy to rob, the jury heard.

Detectives pieced together the conspiracy after they recovered crucial evidence when one raider failed to burn a getaway car after being disturbed by a member of the public, the court heard.

Ian Ogden, 27, of Forest Bank Prison, Salford, was alleged to be "at the heart" of the plot. He denies two counts of conspiracy to rob.

Richard Bennett, prosecuting, told the jury: "The prosecution says Ian Ogden may not have worn a mask or brandished a weapon but he was part of a criminal agreement to rob the two shops.

"He was a facilitator at the start, on the end of the phone during the planning and execution of both robberies, and had links to the disposal of a stolen watch after the Middlesbrough robbery."

The prosecution said Ogden "had a central role as part of both conspiracies" from his cell in a Liverpool jail.

Despite a high level of planning, the Yarm raiders "bungled", the jury heard.

"No matter how well put together a plan may be it is only as strong as the weakest link," Mr Bennett said.

Because the stolen Audi A6 getaway car was not torched when it was dumped at Yarm Cricket Club on November 10, police were able to get DNA from a crowbar and the steering wheel.

And false number plates which should have been destroyed were found in the boot, allowing detectives to trace its movements using traffic cameras.

Mr Bennett said gang members also made the mistake of using "dirty", disposable mobile phones to ring "clean" numbers, calling co-conspirators and loved ones.

The barrister said: "Crucially Ogden was in contact with a number of key players in the conspiracy at significant times.

"The prosecution case is that Ogden, despite being locked up in jail at the time, was a key organiser and helped set up contact between North East and North West.

"He then carried on playing an important role in the activities of the conspirators."

Mr Bennett said mobile phones were prohibited in prison "for security purposes".

He said: "Ian Ogden however had possession of a number of illicit phones which had been smuggled into the prison.

"He could call who he wanted about what he wanted without the prison authorities knowing."

The barrister added: "The prosecution say he was involved in arranging the disposal of at least one watch - the only one that has been recovered out of the £637,000 stock taken and dispersed from both robberies.

"Although he never came anywhere near Teesside because he was detained in prison he was at the heart of the conspiracy."

He made no reply to police when he was interviewed.

Mr Bennett said Ogden now claims the calls he made from his cell were "entirely innocent and no more than friendly conversations with people he knew".

The trial continues.

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