Armed gang 'bungled' jewel raids getaway, court told; Dramatic CCTV footage is shown to jury as trial starts.
AN ARMED gang "bungled" two "well executed" raids on Teesside jewellery stores by failing to torch a getaway car and ditch mobile phones, a court heard.
It was these errors that led detectives to the organised criminal gang who had got away with PS637,000 of stock from Market Cross Jewellers shops in Yarm and Middlesbrough.
Because the stolen Audi A6 getaway car was not torched when it was dumped at Yarm Cricket Club after the first robbery, police were able to get DNA from a crowbar and the steering wheel.
And false number plates which should have been destroyed were found in the boot, allowing detectives to trace its movements using traffic cameras.
In the trial of Ian Ogden, 27, alleged to be "at the heart" of the plot, prosecutor Richard Bennett told Teesside Crown Court: "No matter how well put together a plan may be, it is only as strong as the weakest link.
"Despite the execution and the successful escape, in each case those carrying out the robbery made a fundamental mistake.
"It was this mistake that allowed the police through a huge operation to track down a number of the main players in each robbery."
Mr Bennett said the gang had planned to dump the Audi used in the Yarm raid "and torch it to remove all traces of DNA and forensic evidence".
"Unhappily for the robbers a member of the public disturbed the man trying to set it alight," he told the jury.
"He ran off to a waiting vehicle which made off at speed. That was where they bungled this operation.
"Had the Audi been burned out as was the plan, it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, to trace its route as the other false plates inside the vehicle would have been destroyed.
"As it was, the police were able to trace the route that the Audi had taken on the first set of false plates found inside the vehicle."
Mr Bennett said gang members also made the mistake of using "dirty", disposable mobile phones to ring "clean" numbers, calling co-conspirators and loved ones.
Dramatic CCTV footage of the moment armed robbers burst into the two Market Cross Jewellers was shown to the jury. One clip showed a terrified shop assistant in the Yarm store running for cover as the masked gang burst through the doors.
Armed with axes, they are then seen calmly running and walking around the High Street branch, smashing cabinets and taking hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of stock.
A brave passer-by even films the gang run from the shop and jump into their getaway car, which screeches off down Yarm High Street.
During the Middlesbrough raid staff activated a smoke bandit device which filled the store with thick smoke.
Of the PS515,000 worth of designer Rolex, Omega and Breitling watches stolen from the Yarm jewellers in November 2014 and over PS122,000 of stock stolen in the Middlesbrough raid in January last year only one watch has been recovered.
Ogden, of Forest Bank Prison, Salford, denies two counts of conspiracy to rob.
The prosecution said Ogden "had a central role as part of both conspiracies" from his cell in a Liverpool jail.
"Although he never came anywhere near Teesside because he was detained in prison he was at the heart of the conspiracy."
Mr Bennett said Ogden now claims the calls he made from his cell were "entirely innocent and no more than friendly conversations with people he knew".
Ten more men from Manchester and Teesside have pleaded guilty to charges in relation to the two robberies, the jury heard.
| Damage visible outside Market Cross Jewellers in Middlesbrough town centre, left, after the January 2015 raidKATIE LUNN
Stills from the Market Cross Jewellers armed robbery at Yarm, above, and Middlesbrough, top and left