Disguises failed to prevent offender’s capture

AN armed robber who carried out a series of raids at betting shops across the country dressed as Elvis Presley and in other disguises has been jailed for life.

Martin Reilly, 53, formerly of Thorngate Street, Kettering, wore wigs, hats, false beards, moustaches and even a hockey mask to alter his appearance and hide distinctive scarring on his cheeks in a four-month crime spree which started at Coral bookmakers in Lower Street, Kettering, on June 13 last year.

At Brighton Crown Court yesterday, Reilly was jailed for life and told he will serve a minimum of 12 years.

DI Ian Still, who led the nationwide hunt for Reilly, said: “Reilly lived a life of crime and was a prolific offender.

“He showed no regard for any of the staff in the betting shops, who were all threatened with a weapon before being robbed.

“Almost all of his victims have been left traumatised by their frightening experiences, with not just their work life affected but also their home life and how they conduct themselves on a daily basis.”

Reilly, who was released on licence from a life sentence for similar armed robberies in 2005, admitted seven armed raids, one attempted armed robbery and seven counts of possession of a firearm between June 13 and October 10 last year.

His crimes covered seven police force areas, sparking a nationwide manhunt. Pictures of his outlandish costumes drew widespread publicity.

During each offence he would enter the betting shops, usually after a single member of staff had just opened up, and demand cash from the tills and the safe while brandishing an imitation firearm or knife.

He locked victims in toilets, kitchens and store cupboards before escaping with thousands of pounds in cash.

In Kettering he made off with £500 and in total took £23,000.

When police caught up with Reilly in Hereford in October they found masks, wigs, a high-visibility jacket, trousers and waistcoats, glasses and goggles, strips of sticking plaster, a tube of ‘theatrical flesh’, a large knife and an imitation handgun in his flat.

Reilly apparently carried out the raids after falling out with his probation officer, who had told him he could not move back to Ireland where his family lives.

By pleading guilty at Lewes Crown Court in January, Judge Paul Tain said Reilly saved his victims from having to attend court to “recite the information they are no doubt reliving in their post-traumatic stress disorder state”.

After Kettering, Reilly raided shops in Brighton, Hove, Eastbourne, Woking, Surrey, Portsmouth, Hampshire, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, Bedford, Bedfordshire and west London.