A second man who took part in a frightening robbery at a Rugby jewellers, escaping with more than £250,000 worth of expensive watches, has been jailed.
Darren Pallas pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to robbing staff at Tarratt jewellers in Regent Street, Rugby, of Rolex and Cartier watches.
Pallas, 33, of Cross Green Lane, Cross Green, Leeds, was jailed for five years – the same as handed to fellow robber Jordan Mitchell who was sentenced in October.
Prosecutor Patrick Sullivan said Tarratt’s door is kept locked and legitimate customers have to buzz to be allowed in, and there is also a security guard just inside the door.
But at coming up to 11.30 in the morning on September 3 last year, two men approached the door wearing ski masks and wielding sledgehammers; and one of them, Mitchell, swung at the doorframe with one of the hammers, and the door flew open.
He rushed inside, followed by Pallas, and shouted at the staff to get down on the floor and stay there.
The two raiders then used the sledgehammers to smash their way into display cabinets from where they 27 Rolex watches and ten Chanel watches.
They put their haul, worth a total of £258,850 at retail prices, into two bags they had with them and, within minutes of bursting in, had run out and into a waiting BMW.
It sped off as the police were alerted, and by chance two officers involved in the search for the BMW saw an Audi jump a red light as it headed out of the town ‘obviously in a hurry.’
They decided to follow it, not knowing the men in it had been involved in the burglary and had switched from the BMW into the Audi as they made their get-away.
There was a pursuit at high speed before the driver rammed a police car before abandoning the Audi on the Brownsover estate, said Mr Sullivan.
Mitchell (25) of Mary Street, Bradford, was caught nearby and, after admitting his involvement, was dealt with at Coventry Crown Court under the ‘early guilty plea’ scheme.
Pallas and the driver managed to get away, but the police recovered all but one watch worth £17,650 from the Audi, which had been stolen in a burglary and given a false identity.
CCTV recordings showed the BMW and the Audi had been in convoy earlier in the day, and in the Audi was an overnight bag in which there was a toothbrush with Pallas’s DNA on it.
Mobile phone evidence showed that Pallas and Mitchell had been together earlier in the day, and Pallas was caught by a CCTV camera at Rugby station where he got a train back to Leeds.
Pallas, who had convictions for offences including burglary but none for robbery, was finally arrested in Wakefield in January, added Mr Sullivan.
Jonathan Veasey-Pugh, defending, argued that because Mitchell had played the leading role and had ‘relevant’ previous convictions, Pallas could receive a shorter sentence.
“This defendant says they had spoken in Leeds when Mitchell invited him to do something he knew would be criminal; but he did not know the details until they found themselves in Rugby near the shop and he was given a hammer and a mask.”
But jailing Pallas, Recorder William Mousley QC told him: “You got away with watches worth in excess of a quarter of a million pounds, but one of the other occupants of the car was caught nearby and made admissions almost immediately.
“You were arrested some time later following careful police work, and when you were interviewed you made no comment.
“There are a number of aggravating features. This was a professionally planned and executed robbery involving travelling from a distance, the use of not one but two getaway vehicles, and the carrying of sledgehammers to get into the displays and in support of the threat you and the other man must have posed to those in the shop.
“There’s no doubt you have had difficulties over the years, but they do you no good so far as providing any meaningful mitigation for this offence. In my judgement there is no distinction to be drawn between you and Mr Mitchell.”