An armed robber who targeted bookmakers across the county has been jailed for 15 years.
Frank Asante, 40, of Portbury Close, Peckham, was found guilty of 12 robberies and 13 counts of possession of a firearm.
He was jailed at Woolwich Crown Court after carrying out a series of armed robberies across Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Hertfordshire, Crawley and London.
Just two weeks after being released from prison, Asante began a series of armed robberies.
The first offence happened in Wellingborough on February 13 at Ladbrookes on Midland Road. The second two were in Northampton on February 16, one at BetFred on Kettering Road and the other at Ladbrookes, Fish Street. The fourth offence in the county was at BetFred on Dalkeith Place, Kettering on February 21.
Asante was released from prison on licence on February 11 after serving four-and-a-half years of a nine-year sentence for armed robbery - relating to two petrol stations and one bookmaker in 2008.
Within two weeks he set out on a series of robberies in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Hertfordshire, Crawley and across London.
All of the offences involved a lone black male who concealed his identity with a scarf or balaclava and produced a firearm wrapped in a plastic bag. The suspect appeared to have a large stomach or ‘beer belly’. He threatened staff and forced them to fill a second carrier bag with the takings from the tills.
The Flying Squad at Tower Bridge became aware of the linked robberies and began an investigation.
Officers ascertained that Asante had absconded from his bail hostel in Leicester on February 26 and his whereabouts were unknown.
Financial enquiries identified an address in Winford Court, Peckham, where a credit card application had been made on 3 March, in an alias name that Asante had used in the past.
Surveillance was instigated on the address and on the first day of monitoring, a man was seen to leave the address. He was an athletic-looking black male, lacking the large stomach described by witnesses, but matched the height of the suspect.
He was followed on foot, carrying a rucksack for over two hours as he walked towards central London, over Tower Bridge and then east through Limehouse, eventually arriving at Barking Road, Newham.
He appeared to look in a Ladbrokes bookmakers in Barking Road before disappearing into the backstreets.
A few minutes later a male with a large stomach appeared, wearing a tracksuit, who returned to the bookmakers and tried to gain access.
Fortunately for the staff they had locked up a few minutes early due the spate of robberies and Asante was unable to gain entry.
He was then approached by Flying Squad officers and a after a short foot chase Asante was detained, having attempted to discard the firearm during the chase. The firearm was found to be am imitation firearm.
He was found to be wearing a rucksack on his front underneath his tracksuit to give the impression of a large stomach.
He was convicted of 12 counts of robbery and 13 counts of firearm possession. He was acquitted in relation to one offence and the jury was unable to reach a verdict on two of the robberies.
He was sentenced on Wednesday, October 23.
Detective Inspector Mark Field, of The Flying Squad at Tower Bridge, said: “Only two weeks after being released from prison, this man begun a terrifying campaign of armed robberies across the country.
“Wearing a balaclava and armed with a gun, he targeted bookmakers, mostly with lone female members of staff.
“I would like to commend the work of my team who worked closely with colleagues in Northamptonshire, Leicestershire, Hertfordshire and Sussex Police to bring this man to justice.
“We have been instrumental in putting a dangerous man and a prolific armed robber behind bars where he belongs.”
Asante will serve a minimum of 10 years imprisonment and on release will be subject to a further 15 years on licence.