Pair admit to three-week reign of summer terror

In a three-week reign of terror, masked thugs dragged a driver from his car, raided a shop armed with a crowbar and pinned a terrified mother of two to her bed before fleeing with her late husband’s watch.

Now two men have admitted their involvement in the robberies throughout the Black Country and Staffordshire.

Richard Howell, aged 37, and 28-year-old Ross Underwood confessed to joining forces to commit three raids in less than three weeks.

Underwood further pleaded guilty to robbing a 52-year-old widow of jewellery that included a £15,000 watch belonging to her late husband.

The first raid happened on August 13 when a driver was dragged from a blue Audi TT that was parked at the Orbital Retail Park in Cannock around 11 am.

The startled passenger leapt out, leaving the key in the ignition of the car that was then driven away by the two men who each had their face covered by a scarf. The damaged Audi was recovered from a street in Coseley on August 30, the day Howell and Underwood were arrested.

On August 14 the two defendants were in a masked gang armed with a crowbar who raided a Spar shop in Kingswinford at 11pm. Staff were threatened and thousands of pounds worth of cigarettes emptied from a display shelf into a rubbish bin that was taken then the raiders who fled – in a blue Audi TT.

Howell and Underwood were also among three men wearing balaclavas who stole £3,000 worth of cigarettes taken after staff were threatened at a Co-op shop in Tividale on August 23.

Underwood was then one of three hooded raiders brandishing a crow bar who forced open the front door and burst into the Woodsetton home of a widow as she lay in bed watching TV at 9.10pm on August 29. One pinned the mother of two to her bed while others rifled through drawers before fleeing with jewellery that included her husband’s gold Swiss Ebel watch.

Det Con Darren Brown said: “This was a brutal attack on a defenceless woman. .”

Howell, of Carder Crescent, Bilston and Underwood of Damson Wharf, Tipton both admitted conspiring with others to rob between August 11 and September 1 when they appeared at Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday.

In a basis of plea both admitted involvement in the incidents at Cannock, Kingswinford and Tividale while Underwood alone confessed to being part of the Woodsetton robbery.

Both were remanded in custody and will be sentenced on January 3.