Master of disguise robber jailed
Published 01/06/2012 | 18:12
A master of disguise has been jailed for 14 years for a string of armed robberies during which he donned a lifelike latex mask to change his skin colour.
Henley Stephenson, 41, terrorised shoppers with a semi-automatic pistol in the spree of "calculated and frightening" raids dating back more than a decade.
On one occasion the gun-toting thug completely altered his features by concealing his black skin with the white mask.
With his identity hidden, he pounced on a cash-in-transit security guard outside a Tesco Express store in Harrow, north London. CCTV images show him sporting an orange high visibility jacket and a pair of dark glasses to complete his look. He made off with about £250 in cash.
In further robberies, customers were sent running for cover as he stormed into stores with two accomplices, once firing a weapon into the air in a betting shop.
The three gang members were arrested after they targeted another security guard outside a branch of Currys in July. The group lay in wait in a blue Vauxhall Zafira with false number plates before Stephenson, armed with a semi-automatic pistol, grabbed the box containing £19,800.
They were held by police who swooped moments later as they tried to flee the scene in Staples Corner, north London. Detectives linked the crime to another four offences using evidence gathered from CCTV, mobile phones, witness statements and surveillance operations.
Detective Chief Inspector Harry Hennigan said: "Stephenson tried to deceive the police by concealing his identity by wearing a lifelike latex mask which completely altered his skin colour and appearance."
Stephenson, of Westminster, initially pleaded guilty to five charges against him. He later admitted a further 14 historic robberies across north London dating as far back as 1999. He was handed the 14-year prison term at Wood Green Crown Court for 19 counts of robbery and five counts of possessing a firearm.
He will serve half his sentence behind bars, minus the 310 days he has already spent in custody. His accomplices, Leon Topper, 22, of Hertfordshire, and Dean Williams, 26, from east London, await sentence. Williams admitted robbery and possessing a firearm. Topper admitted two counts of the same charges.