A gang of criminals have been locked up for a total of almost 30 years after carrying out a series of terrifying raids at businesses across Burton and South Derbyshire.
Michael Ahearne, Robert Duffey, Kyle Allison and Neil Wakelam all appeared at Stafford Crown Court today, Thursday, July 6, to be sentenced for their part in five armed raids and burglaries over the last two years.
A fifth man, James Harvey, was sentenced last year for his part in the raids.
Ahearne, now 33, of Blakeholme Court, Burton, was sentenced to 14 years after being convicted of carrying out armed robberies at the Tesco Express, in Stanton Road, Stapenhill, and at the post office in Draycott in the Clay. The raids happened on two consecutive days last year.
His co-accused, Duffey, 28, has been sentenced to nine years following their joint trial. They were convicted of robbery and possession of a firearm. A third man, James Harvey, was sentenced to 56 months after pleading guilty to these offences last year.
The court heard that while Ahearne was on bail for these offences he walked into the Overseal post office, in Lullington Road, Overseal, on May 16, this year, along with 24-year-old Kyle Allison, of Belvedere Road, Burton.
They used two large machetes to threaten staff who had barricaded themselves in a separate room during the raid. They escaped with £1,100 in cash but dropped £300 in the street.
They both admitted this robbery and possession of the machetes. Allison has been jailed for four years.
Then, on June 15, this year, Ahearne returned to the same Draycott Post Office he hit the previous year and threatened staff with a knife before being chased out and detained by members of the public.
The court heard he had an accomplice but has never revealed his identity. He pleaded guilty to this offence of robbery and possession of a knife.
During the same court hearing, Duffey also appeared alongside 41-year-old Wakelam, of Uxbridge Street, Burton, after they both had pleaded guilty to theft and burglary at a farm, in Rolleston Lane, Tutbury, on November 16, 2015.
Judge Michael Chambers called Ahearne “callous” for returning to the same Draycott Post Office, whose staff provided victim impact statements read out in court.
The victims described in detail the detrimental psychological effect on themselves, and financial impact on their business, which they are now considering selling.
Defending for Ahearne, Jane Sarginson said: “He was convicted of six armed robberies seven years ago, and not with firearms.
He pleaded guilty to two of these robberies [the robbery in Overseal and the second Draycott robbery]. He carried out the other two in quick succession and was bailed. He did not call any witnesses during his trial.”
The barrister added that Ahearne has a 12-year-old son who he wants to see grow up and hopes he does not get into trouble like his father.
The court also heard at the time of the offences he had been addicted to crack cocaine but is now off this drug and this “has clarified his mind”.
Darron Whitehead, for Duffey, said he was realistic about the amount of time he will spend in prison and wanted to use that time to reflect on his past and make use of the facilities and courses in jail.
For Allison, Adrian Moore said his client admitted his offences at the first opportunity and did not apply for bail. He is addicted to valium. He also said: “Fortunately there were no physical consequences to his involvement.”
For Wakelam, Steve Hennessy, admitted his client’s record makes for “unattractive reading” but that his last conviction for burglary was in 2005.
He added that his client was addicted to heroin but that he had had a daughter last year and is anxious to raise her.
Wakelam was sentenced to 27 months for his offences.
Gang's catalogue of crime
November 16, 2015
Between 9.15am and 10.20am, Duffey, who was carrying out building work at a farm, in Rolleston Lane, Tutbury, along with Wakelam smashed a kitchen door and stole a safe and keys to a £28,000 Range Rover parked on the drive, which they then stole.
November 27, 2015
The stolen Range Rover crashes near Wakelam’s home. Darryl McIntyre, who was driving it at the time, was sentenced to four months in prisons for handling stolen goods.
April 12, 2016
At 10pm Ahearne, Duffey and James Harvey burst into the Tesco Express, in Stapenhill, threaten staff with a firearm, before driving off with £450 in cash.
April 13, 2016
At 4pm the same three men raid Draycott Post Office, again threatening staff with a firearm, before stealing £1,800 in cash and cigarettes. Photographs taken of the getaway car led police to Harvey, whose father was driving the car. He led them to Harvey.
April 14, 2016
Armed officers swoop on an address in Byrkley Street, Burton, where they find Harvey, Ahearne and Duffey. The clothes used in the robberies are later found dumped on a towpath.
May 16, 2017
At 4pm Ahearne and Allison burst into Overseal post office, in Lullington Road, armed with machetes, stealing £1,100 in cash before fleeing.
June 15, 2017
At 10.30am Ahearne and an unknown accomplice burst into Draycott Post Office again, threatening staff with a knife. He puts down the knife at one point and one of the staff throws it away. He steals £100 from the tills.