Moped gang face jail for armed jewellery and cash raids in London and Manchester
A gang of robbers are facing jail for smashing their way into a string of jewellers and money transfer shops, wielding sledgehammers and machetes, before escaping on mopeds.
Over the course of a year, raiders struck at seven stores in London and Manchester, making off with an estimated £500,000 in cash, expensive watches and jewellery.
Disguised in helmets and gloves, they used concrete blocks and hammers to shatter window displays and glass cabinets and threaten staff with knives and machetes before making off on stolen Vespas or mopeds.
One of the robbers was caught when City workers and a plain-clothes police officer blocked his escape after a robbery which was captured in mobile phone footage by a passer-by.
On January 22, Alex Parle, Conor Gartland and Thomas O'Connor snatched jewellery and Rolex watches from Carr Jewellers in London's Liverpool Street.
They had arrived on two mopeds and tried to smash into the window display with a concrete block. Two of them then entered the store with sledgehammers to break into two cabinets displaying Rolex, Piquet and Omega watches.
Parle, who is 6ft 7in, acted as the lookout but was unable to mount the back of one of the mopeds as they made their escape. The driver was heard to shout "Alex, get on!" in video taken by a member of the public.
Then a plain-clothes police officer tried to block the mopeds' path by parking across the road, causing one of the bikes to swerve and preventing the taller robber from getting on the back.
He ran down the street after the mopeds but was tackled by the shop manager.
The robber then produced a large machete and swung it at people before running off. He was later arrested.
O'Connor, 23, of Swan Road, Surrey Quays, south east London, Parle, 22, of Brunel Road, Surrey Quays, south east London, and Gartland, 18, Druid Street, Bankside, south east London, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to plotting to commit robbery between February 15 last year and January 23 this year.
Gartland and an unknown person were accused of trying to rob Akdeniz Jewellers, in Walworth Road, south east London, on February 16 last year at 1.35pm.
All three defendants then took £1,250 from Bilex International in Peckham High Street on December 20 last year.
The same day, Parle and Gartland made off with £2,392.47 from Unistream Money Transfer Shop in West Ham Lane, Stratford, east London.
Two days later, Parle, Gartland and O'Connor stole £29,000 from Kushiaria Money Exchange, in Commercial Road, Tower Hamlets, east London. During the robbery one of the men used a 2ft (61cm) long kitchen knife to threaten staff.
On January 13 this year, the gang wielded concrete and a sledgehammer to snatch £37,448.77 of jewellery and watches from a jeweller's in Crofton Road, Orpington, Kent.
Two days later, they took eight expensive watches during a raid on the Cheshire Watch Company in King Street West, Manchester.
The Flying Squad, City of London police and Manchester police joined forces to catch the robbers.
They will be sentenced by Judge Wendy Joseph QC on December 15 at the Old Bailey.
Acting Detective Inspector Kelly Schonhage, of City of London Police, said: "These men are part of a wider organised crime network who commit commercial robberies targeting money transfer shops and jewellers.
"They will go as far as threatening violence towards the public with machetes and sledgehammers in order to carry out smash-and-grab robberies, stealing thousands of pounds' worth of watches, money and jewellery.
"The close working between all three police forces and a thorough investigation has led to these guilty pleas.
"I would like to thank the brave member of public who put themselves at risk to help catch one of the suspects during the robbery at Liverpool Street."
CPS lawyer Damaris Lakin said: "These men were part of an organised criminal network that targeted money transfer shops and jewellers. Their actions terrified staff at these businesses and passers-by alike, with a witness describing one of the raids as 'violent and frenzied'.
"Members of the public and shop staff should be able to go about their daily business without the threat of this type of unacceptable violence.
"We hope that this conviction sends out a strong message to organised criminal networks that we will work closely with our police partners to bring those responsible to justice."