Crime DOES pay: Armed robbers who netted more than £70,000 are ordered to give back just £1

Masked thugs who committed a string of robberies in a terrifying three-week crime spree which saw them pocket tens of thousands of pounds have been ordered to pay back just £1 each.

Ross Underwood and Richard Howell
Ross Underwood and Richard Howell

Ross Underwood made £43,200 and Richard Howell pocketed £31,200 during the crime wave, which included dragging a driver from her car and raiding a shop armed with a crowbar.

But as neither has any assets to be able to pay back the cash, they have been ordered to pay back a nominal fee of £1 to the public purse during a court hearing yesterday.

The ruling was today labelled as ‘a joke’ by a 53-year-old widow who was pinned to a bed as her late husband’s precious £10,000 watch was stolen during a raid on her Woodsetton home by one of the men. She said: “And they say that crime doesn’t pay.”

Underwood, aged 28 and of Damson Wharf in Tipton, is currently serving a sentence of seven years and three months after admitting conspiracy to rob. Howell, 37, of Carder Crescent in Bilston, is behind bars for six years after admitting the same charge.

But he, along with Richard Howell – who also took part in some raids but not the Woodsetton robbery – have been made to pay back a nominal £1 after Wolverhampton Crown Court heard that they had no assets left.

See also: Express & Star comment - Crime must not pay

Widow says she will never feel safe again after terrifying house raid

Pair admit reign of terror

At Wolverhampton Crown Court yesterday Judge Michael Dudley told the pair: “There will be a nominal order of £1 in each case.”

During their crime spree, the pair dragged a woman from her £22,000 Audi TT in front of her 13-year-old daughter at the Orbital Retail Park in Cannock.

Orbital 1 RH 28
The Orbital Retail Park, where the gang struck

The passenger then got out leaving the key in the ignition of the vehicle that was then driven away by the two men who each had their face covered by a scarf.

The pair struck with another crook at the Spar in Lapwood Avenue, Kingswinford the next night, armed with a crowbar, and filled bins with £8,000 worth of cigarettes after threatening female staff.

The cigarettes were emptied from a display shelf into a rubbish bin that was taken then the raiders who fled in a blue Audi TT.

Howell – who was only freed from jail three months earlier – and Underwood then stole £3,000 cigarettes and cash from the Co-op in Dudley Road West, Tividale.

Again staff were threatened, with Howell and Underwood among three men wearing balaclava hoods who entered the store.

Six-days later a widow’s irreplaceable and sentimental items were stolen from her home, when 28-year-old Underwood and two others barged in.

The grandmother was alone watching TV in bed when the masked men armed with a crowbar charged into the room.

The terrified mother of two screamed as she was threatened by the men, who pushed her down on the bed and fled with her beloved late husband’s precious £10,000 watch.

They also took her mobile phone and other jewellery. She was pinned to the bed while they rifled through her drawers and cupboards and demanded cash before fleeing with the items.

The victim, who has spent thousands of pounds on extra security on her home since the raid, said: “It’s a joke, it’s like they’ve got away with it. I’ve had to spend all this money on security at my home and they made thousands of pounds from what they did.

“They’ve got no morals.

“And they say that crime doesn’t pay.”

She added: “It was bad enough to lose my husband without having masked men burst into my bedroom to wreck my life.”

The £10,000 watch had been bought for her late husband’s 40th birthday before giving it to her daughter as a lasting memento. It has never been found.

Underwood and Howell were arrested in Gornal the following day after being linked to the stolen Audi. It was discovered in a lock-up garage in Rifle Street, Coseley.