Thug jailed for part in £85k ram-raid on Jai Jewellers in Smethwick
A ‘dangerous' thug has been jailed for his part in a £85,000 jewellery raid in which a masked gang rammed a lorry into the front of a shop and used sledgehammers to smash the display counters.
Kashaun Heath, 23, avoided arrest at the scene when other gang members threw bricks at police officers, injuring one of them. But he was traced later through blood found on broken glass, a court heard.
Sentencing him to 10 years behind bars, Judge Michael Challinor told him: “This was a wicked offence, and you knew it. You showed a complete disregard for the people you knew would be inside at that time.”
WATCH footage capturing the chaos during the Smethwick raid. Footage courtesy of Raaj FM
The gang reversed an eight-ton flat-bed lorry several times into the front of family business Jai Jewellers in Cape Hill, Smethwick, on March 9, around 20 minutes after the shop had closed at 6pm, said Mr Neil Ahluja, prosecuting.
Terrified staff fled to a back office to hide while a family member pulled a security guard to safety, saving him from being crushed against the counter by the lorry, Wolverhampton Crown Court heard.
The gang of three or four masked men then used sledgehammers to smash the display counters and snatch as much gold as they could.
In addition to the jewellery stolen, the gang caused £80,000 of damage to the premises.
When police arrived they were attacked by bricks thrown from the getaway car, an Audi stolen from Coventry in the days leading up to the robbery.
A police officer was treated in hospital for injuries suffered at the scene.
In an impact statement, the family said the robbery had had a ‘catastrophic’ effect on them, and they were so traumatised they were considering giving up the business.
None of the jewellery was recovered because Heath refused to answer police questions, the court heard.
Heath, of Landswood Road, Oldbury, pleaded guilty to robbery.
He had previous similar convictions, including three attempted robberies for which he was sentenced to three years’ detention in November 2014.
But Mr Ben Williams, defending, argued there was a positive side to Heath’s character, and that he had been on a university drama course before getting in with a bad crowd.
He said the defendant had been intimidated into taking part in the robbery by a ‘notorious local man’ and had not taken part in its planning.
It was his misfortune to cut himself during the raid and get caught while others who played a much more significant role escaped, added Mr Williams.
A reference from his former employer, J.D. Sport, described Heath as highly thought of and a valued member of the team.
Judge Challinor told Heath he was entitled to pass a life sentence because of his criminal record and the severity of the crime but he was ‘not the mastermind’ behind the robbery.
He said: “I don’t want to appear that I am siding with you but you are an intelligent young man, only 23, and if you decide to turn away from crime you could lead a useful life.”
The judge added he could only imagine what it must have been like for staff at the shop to see truck reversing towards them and masked men emerging with sledgehammers.
In his judgment the lorry was being used ‘as a weapon with which to terrify’ the occupants of the shop, and to ‘completely overwhelm and intimidate’ them, as well as to gain access to the premises.
He also said the vehicle could have seriously injured or even killed’ those inside.