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Coventry gang jailed for series of violent robberies

Harrowing footage has been released showing the moment a security guard's attacked by axe-wielding robbers - as the Coventry gang behind the crime start their jail sentences.

The group's got a total of more than 60 years behind bars for a series of violent robberies in Coventry, as well as in Derbyshire and Leicestershire.

The video shows the security guard close a petrol station gate behind him before the gang barged through it and marched him into a back office.

There, he was attacked with an axe and left with a fractured cheekbone as the gang screamed for money to be handed over.

The thugs escaped with £75,000 and the shaken worker was left so traumatised that he later resigned.

But a major investigation by the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) unmasked the gang – and proved their involvement in two other robberies.

In February 2018, Ashley Bell, Marcus Cohen and Thomas Bruce donned balaclavas and forced their way into a branch of the Co-op in Stretton, Derbyshire, as staff opened up around 6am.

Workers were tied up with cable ties and threatened with a crowbar before the gang made off with £13,000, stamps and lottery cards.

The gang, joined by another man, Connor Sanderson, struck on 6 March last year at Texaco on Black Prince Avenue in Cheylesmore. 

As well as the terrifying body worn video, CCTV footage shows how Charlene Shaw, then Cohen’s partner, acted as a lookout, keeping an open phone line to him before, during and after the raid.

She was in a car parked outside the garage monitoring the guards’ movements and after the gang struck, she even ran in to offer them help.

In reality, she was secretly hoping to pick up on what information the police would gather in the immediate aftermath of the robbery.

The final raid was at Co-op in Shepshed, Leicestershire, just before 6am on 10 May.

Three men forced their way into the shop using crowbars. Staff locked themselves in an office and raised the alarm, but the men got away with cash, stamps and CCTV from the scene.

After Sanderson, Cohen and Bell were arrested for another burglary, they were interviewed in prison about the robberies. Bruce and Shaw were arrested separately.

Evidence against the gang included text message conversations discussing stolen cigarettes, CCTV footage showing gang members carrying out recces of targets and footage of some of the men wearing clothing they later wore during robberies.

The gang members were:

•       Marcus Cohen, aged 39 of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob, as well as a house burglary in Cheylesmore, and handling cigarettes stolen from a burglary at Asda in Cheylesmore on 3 March last year. He was jailed for 21 years at Warwick Crown Court on August 1 and is now classed as a dangerous offender.
•       Ashley Bell, aged 33, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob, and the same handling charge. He was jailed for 22 years and is also a dangerous offender. He and Cohen have previously been convicted of taking part in a serious wounding together.
•       Connor Sanderson, aged 21, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob, and a house burglary in Cheylesmore, as well as the handling charge. He was jailed for 14 years.
•       Thomas Bruce, aged 29, of no fixed address, was found guilty of conspiracy to rob and will be sentenced on 28 August.
•       Charlene Shaw, aged 39, of Allen Close, Hinckley was found guilty of conspiracy to rob and will be sentenced on the same day.
•       Scott Bowman, aged 29, of Radford in Coventry, is wanted for questioning as part of the same series.

DCI Ronan Tyrer, of West Midlands ROCU, said: “This was a really violent gang, whose members were really well known in the Cheylesmore area.

“The body worn video speaks for itself and shows just how awful this ordeal was.

“They used high levels of violence to get what they wanted, with a total disregard for their victims.

“Those victims have recovered from their physical injuries, but their ordeals have had a lasting effect.

“Some fantastic police work built a really strong case, and goes to show how ROCU operates around the region to bring some of the Midlands’ most dangerous criminals to justice.

“The length of the sentences should send a strong message to those involved in organised crime that they can expect to spend many years in prison when we catch them.”

•       Anyone with information about Bowman’s whereabouts should get in touch via Live Chat at west-midlands.police.uk between 8am and midnight, call 101 anytime, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
 

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