Members of one of Britain’s biggest networks of armed robbery gangs have been jailed.
The 17 raiders were among 30 career criminals being sentenced for their roles in raids that netted watches and jewellery worth more than £3.5 million.
The crooks were so prolific they undertook a robbery almost every fortnight for 16 months as they targeted shops across southern England. Gangs of three or four men dressed in white overalls and balaclavas and used sledgehammers and axes to smash their way into jewellery shops.
During some of the raids the thieves armed themselves with knives, a gun, a hammer, CS spray and a Taser stun gun.
Kingston Crown Court was told 34 raids were carried out across southern England, London, the West Country and East Anglia between January 2008 and May 2009.
On one occasion a gang travelled to Antwerp to commit a robbery during which they fired CS spray at passers-by and the shopkeeper. They also targeted motorcycle dealerships, tying up staff and loading motorcycles into stolen vans before using the machines as getaway vehicles.
The five masterminds were James Stewart, 28, brothers Billy, 28, and Danny Johnson, 29, Anthony Bado, 28, and John Chambers, 35.
Stewart, Bado, Chambers and Billy and Danny Johnson were convicted of carrying out 18 conspiracies to commit robbery and 16 counts of conspiracy to burgle.
Stewart, of Maidstone, was jailed for 14 years; Bado, of Bournemouth, was jailed for 12 years; Chambers, of Bromley, was jailed for nine years and nine months; Billy Johnson, of Peckham, was jailed for 10 years and eight months and his brother Danny, also of Peckham, was jailed for 11 years and four months.
Others jailed were men aged between 20 and 50 from Eltham, East Dulwich, New Cross, Brockley, Forest Hill, Nunhead and Greenwich. They were imprisoned for between four-and-a-half-years and 15 years. One man received 17 months in a young offenders institution.