ARMED robbers who hid inside a Doncaster jewellers shop and threatened an elderly shop assistant with a knife to make her open the safes have been locked up for 17 years.
The trio stole £320,000 worth of gold jewellery from Soper’s in Bentley, but were caught within minutes after a rapid police response.
Three of the officers involved in the case - PCs Jayne Broadhead, Chris Macleod and Jonathan Wigley - have received official commendations for their part in bringing two brothers and an accomplice to justice.
Doncaster Crown Court heard the three men - all with extensive criminal records - cut a hole in the roof to gain access to the jewellery shop in Arksey Lane on February 23, and waited until 67-year-old assistant Thelma Dixon arrived at 9am to open up.
Mrs Dixon heard a slight noise and then somebody jumped over the counter, took her by the arm and held a knife to her face as he shouted, ‘Do as you’re told’, said Jeremy Evans, prosecuting.
She was told not to look at the men’s faces as zip-ties were pulled around her wrists and she was led to the safes, which she was made to open at knifepoint.
As they removed the gold, Mrs Dixon’s husband, who works in the next door Soper’s DIY shop, heard aggressive shouting and realised something was wrong so dialled 999.
“Police were at the scene extremely quickly and Mrs Dixon ran to the front door in a visibly distressed state, physically shaking, still with the ties on her arms,” said Mr Evans.
One policeman ran to the back and saw three men leap from the roof and managed to grab Robert Marvell, aged 31.
Another officer located Graham William Gallon, 25, in a garden in Balfour Road, and Marvell’s brother, Adam, 27, was spotted hiding in shrubs on wasteland near Arksey level crossing by members of the public and the police helicopter.
All the jewellery was recovered from a bin, and DNA evidence linked the defendants to the knife, a balaclava, and other weapons taken from Mr Soper’s shop.
Gallon, of Northumbria Close, Worksop, was jailed for six years and the Marvells, of Vicars Close, Worksop, each received five-and-a-half years.
They all pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing a bladed article.
Mr Evans said Mrs Dixon was afraid the gang would kill her during the robbery and remained afraid afterwards.
Shop owner Mick Soper, who has previously been robbed, said the incident also affected his health and he was considering early retirement.
The three men’s criminal records ran to a total of 185 previous convictions, but none for robbery.
Judge Jeremy Baker QC told them: “This had all the hallmarks of a professionally planned commercial robbery, with aggravating features in that disguises were worn, it was committed at knifepoint, and the haul of property was in excess of £300,000.”
Defence counsel Christopher Geeson said Gallon was not the man who set up the operation and was sorry for the effect it had on his victim.
Abigail Joyce, for Adam Marvell, said he had shown remorse by dictating a letter of apology to Mrs Dixon.
After the case, Det Sgt Maggie Hawksworth said: “South Yorkshire Police acted quickly to ensure the offenders were apprehended and the stolen property was recovered.
“We are pleased the offenders have received custodial sentences as this was a traumatic experience for the victim.”