Gang who plotted looting spree in Brent during the London riots sent to prison
- Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images
The 22-strong mob from Stonebridge, Harlesden, Neasden, Wembley and Kenton, jailed for a total of 37-and-a-half years
A gang who planned to carry out a looting spree in Brent during the London riots in 2011 were jailed for a total of 37-and-a-half years yesterday.
The 22 males, aged between 15 and 32, were convicted of conspiracy after they were snared when officers intercepted two vans in West Ella Road, Harlesden, following reports of criminal behaviour earlier that day on August 9, 2011.
During two separate trials at Wood Green Crown Court jurors heard that during the height of the disorder, which had swept the city following the police shooting of Mark Duggan in Tottenham, Brent Police received a report that a driver had been violently robbed of a blue Vauxhall Vectra by around five men.
The motorist was threatened at knife point and pulled from the car before the suspects drove it away.
When the victim and a friend later tracked down the vehicle, one of the robbers attempted to make a “Molotov Cocktail” with a spirits bottle to throw at them but when this failed he threw the unlit bottle at the victim and his friend, who ran off in fear of their lives.
The two men were unable to give a clear description of the suspects.
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Officers later received a report of suspicious behaviour outside an address in Neasden where a group of men wearing latex gloves were seen examining the engine of a Vauxhall Vectra.
It transpired it was the stolen car that had broken down.
A large group of men were then seen to get into the back of two vans and drive off.
When the vans were stopped less than a mile away up to 40 suspects jumped out and made off in various directions.
Some tried to escape by climbing over fences, others hid in nearby gardens and a shed.
Despite the suspects’ fleeing at speed, officers managed to arrest 23 of them.
Most were found wearing a mixture of masks, balaclavas, gloves, hooded tops and coats and some were wearing multiple layers of clothing despite the hot weather in order to change their appearance after they had carried out their plans.
Following their arrests Brent Police teamed up with officers from the Met’s Specialist and Economic Crime Command at New Scotland Yard to gather evidence and search the suspects’ home addresses.
Among the items seized included a sawn-off shotgun which was discovered under Matthew Thomas-Howell’s bed, a laptop and a quantity of phones and drugs.
A 14-year-old schoolboy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was arrested two months later after his fingerprints were found on the stolen Vauxhall Vectra.
Many of the suspects claimed they did not know each other and some even said they just happened to be in the area at the time of the arrests.
Abukar Omar, 23, of Hilltop Avenue, Stonebridge, initially claimed that he had nothing to do with the group, had not been in the vehicles and had been mistakenly arrested while walking in the area on his way back from mosque. However, a forensic examination found that a cigarette stub recovered in one of the vans, a Renault Trafic, contained his DNA and he subsequently pleaded guilty ahead of his trial.
The first trial was held in September last year where nine of the defendants denied the charges.
All but one, on whom the jury was undecided, was found guilty. Following this, most of the defendants in the second trial which took place last month pleaded guilty.
A 32-year-old man was tried twice with two hung juries. The Crown Prosecution Service has decided to discontinue the case.
DI Howard Holt from the Met’s Special Enquiry Team, said: “This group took advantage of the prevailing disorder in London at the time and conspired together to loot commercial premises whilst the resources of the Metropolitan Police Service were committed throughout London.
“All of them came equipped for the crime with latex gloves, masks and balaclavas. One of the letters on a van’s number plate had also been altered with black tape, to hide the true identity and ownership of the vehicle.
“Despite the compelling evidence of their culpability, some of the defendants insisted that they were not involved in the conspiracy. Many of them even claimed not to know each other when they were in fact from the same street gang.
“The fact is that these defendants planned and embarked on a crime together, equipped with vans, a stolen car, disguises and forensic protection, while clearly intent on burgling and looting.
“Their successful conviction and significant sentences show how committed the police, Crown Prosecution Service and the courts are to tackling gangs and those who embark on acts of serious crime.”
Click on the pic gallery at the top right to see photos of the men and details of their sentences.