Two men who carried out gunpoint robberies at a Warwick petrol station and a village store on the same night have been branded as dangerous offenders.
Get-away driver Samuel Gold had denied taking part in the two robberies and two charges of possessing an imitation firearm, but was convicted following a trial at Warwick Crown Court last year.
But before he was due to be sentenced, his accomplice Michael Hackett was arrested and charged with the two robberies, so the case was delayed while Hackett’s position was resolved.
He initially pleaded not guilty, but changed his pleas to guilty at a pre-trial hearing – and the two of them have now been sentenced by Judge Barry Berlin, who had heard Gold’s trial.
Now sitting at Wolverhampton Crown Court, Judge Berlin ruled that both men should be classed as dangerous offenders and given extended prison sentences.
Gold, 31, of Freshwater Grove, Leamington, was jailed for 16 years, and Hackett, 30), of Fallow Hill, Leamington, for ten years, both extended by an additional three years on licence.
They will have to serve two-thirds of the jail terms before the Parole Board can consider their release, and may have to serve up to the whole sentence before they are freed – and will then be on licence for the rest of the period and for a further three years.
During Gold’s trial prosecutor Simon Foster said that a CCTV camera at the BP garage in Stratford Road, Warwick, showed a white VW Golf pull onto the forecourt at 8.20pm on Sunday January 15 last year.
“The Golf is perfectly visible, and no less visible is the driver, who is this defendant, Samuel Gold. He gets out and goes into the garage shop.”
Gold bought something, returned to the car, and drove off before going round the block and returning to Stratford Road.
He then backed onto a grassed area which runs along the side and rear of the filling station.
Gold remained in the car while his passenger, dressed in black and with his hoodie concealing his face, went into the shop brandishing a gun in his right hand.
The robber, Hackett, pointed the gun at the cashier, demanding: “Clear the till out. Give us all your money. Put it in a bag.”
The cashier obeyed, ‘as well he might,’ commented Mr Foster, as Hackett told him: “I don’t want to do this, but I’m in trouble.”
Not satisfied with the amount of cash he was given, he demanded cigarettes, then left with just over £200 in cash and the cigarettes, and returned to the Golf which drove off at speed.
“Jump, but not very long, to seven minutes past nine, and to the Co-op store in Long Itchington, which is about 12-and-a-half miles away, which you can do in the time.
“Again there is CCTV in that store, and enter the same man, wearing a balaclava.
“He still had the gun, and he pointed it at the two frightened assistants and said ‘I want the money.’ He ordered them to go to the till and asks for the money to be put in a bag.
“He again came across as almost apologetic, saying ‘I don’t want to do this.’ But he was pointing a gun, and once again he left with cash, about £400,” said Mr Foster.
When the police saw the CCTV recording they could make out the registration number of the Golf and spoke to its owner who revealed that he had lent it to Gold, who was then arrested.
And under the bed at his home, wrapped in a blue cloth, they found a blank-firing Walther pistol which ‘to all intents and purposes appeared to be the real thing.’
During the trial Gold accepted he had been the driver, but said his passenger, who he did not name, had asked to be taken to the petrol station and to the store, and claimed he did not know what he was doing, or that the gun was under his bed.
But Mr Foster said: “The Crown say he participated in the offences, even if he was not the one who thrust the gun into the shopkeepers’ faces.
“He did so by driving the car and getting the actual robber to and from the shops, and by providing concealment for the weapon.”