Kettering armed robbery gang jailed for 20 years
An armed gang who terrorised staff as they robbed Broughton's Co-op has been jailed for almost two decades.
The Kettering quartet brandished a baseball bat and claw hammer to steal goods worth more than £2,000 from the High Street store - before having the cheek to tell workers they had "done a good job" in complying.
On Wednesday (November 6) Northampton Crown Court heard the gang of drug users had been driving around in the rain mob-handed on May 2, seeing where was "suitable for attack".
They settled on Broughton and at about 9.30pm, half-an-hour before the shop closed, Sardou Bah and Katie Nolan entered the store.
Two members of staff were working and two customers were inside.
Bah, 44, was carrying a blue sheet and had his mouth covered as Nolan, 33, wore sunglasses despite the fact it was pitch black.
CCTV showed them walking up and down aisles, taking items off the shelves and placing them back, putting on a charade of shopping.
Prosecuting, John Hallissey said: "They were effectively playing for time."
A peckish Bah, now of HMP Woodhill, opened a tub of flapjacks and started eating them. He went to the till and asked how much they were before saying he would go and get some money.
But over the course of a chaotic three minutes, the store was robbed.
Mr Hallissey said: "When he went to the door he shouted "oi!" and that's when his co-defendants arrived."
Bursting in came Patrick Muddiman, 34 and of Whiteford Drive in Kettering, and Luke O'Neill, 33 and of Wellington Street in Kettering.
Muddiman was carrying a claw hammer as O'Neill held a baseball bat.
O'Neill told the members of staff: "This is an armed robbery. As long as you comply you will be fine."
Bah and Muddiman then leapt over the counter and scooped cigarettes and money into Bah's blue sheet.
O'Neill demanded staff open the till before marching one worker to a back office to open the safe.
But it couldn't be opened and, the court heard, Muddiman "lost his bottle".
Mr Hallissey said: "They all made off, not before telling the shop workers what a good job they had done in complying."
The court heard one of the staff members has been nervous about working at night since.
The gang left the baseball bat behind - which had their DNA on it - and the staff members called 999.
When they were arrested police found the cigarettes and the hammer.
Bah and Muddiman admitted robbery at a plea hearing with O'Neill pleading guilty on the first day of his trial. Nolan, now of HMP Peterborough, denied it but was convicted after what judge Michael Fowler described as a "hopeless" attempt to get off.
The court heard the gang had a combined total of 74 previous convictions spanning 132 offences. Muddiman's criminal past included two previous robberies, one of which he was on licence after being released from prison when he robbed the Broughton Co-op.
Muddiman claimed CCTV showed him trying to reassure a shop worker - but his mitigation was rejected by the judge.
He said: "If you threaten someone with a baseball bat, it's little comfort to tell them if they behave they won't be injured."
Daniel Green, mitigating for Bah, said he had stopped using drugs and was sorry about his involvement. He said: "He is a completely different man today than he was going into the shop."
O'Neill's mum, who sat in the public gallery, penned a letter to the judge about her son's actions. Mitigating for him, James Smith-Wilds said: "He is sorry for the suffering, the pain and the fear that he put the staff through."
Scott Brady, mitigating for Nolan, said she expressed remorse and that she wanted to get her life back on track.
Sentencing, judge Michael Fowler praised staff for showing "admirable calmness and bravery".
The three men who took part in the terrifying attack all had their sentences reduced because of their guilty pleas.
Bah was jailed for four years as O'Neill was sentenced to four years and 11 months inside.
Muddiman was jailed for five years and three months and angrily stormed from the dock because his sentence was longer than Bah's and O'Neill's.
Nolan was jailed for five years with an extra three months for separate offences.
They will all serve half in custody with the remainder on licence.
A fifth man, 56-year-old Richard John Hastings from Northampton, was found not guilty of robbery.
A Central England Co-operative spokesman said: “These incidents are frightening for store colleagues, who are our first priority, and we offer them support and counselling both from within our business and specialists.
"We have implemented increased security measures in partnership with the police in order to protect our colleagues, customers and community.
“We have full CCTV coverage in all our stores, have increased our provision of security guards and reduced incident response times.
“We are pleased that the offenders in this case have been brought to justice and would like to thank the police for their swift investigation and for securing these convictions.
“These sentences back up our long running campaign, working closely with Northamptonshire Police, telling would-be offenders that targeting our convenience supermarkets is not ‘worth the risk’.”