Doncaster Crown Court heard how the trio stole £320,000 worth of gold jewellery from Soper’s in Bentley, Doncaster, but were caught within minutes after a rapid police response.
The court was told the three men cut a hole in the roof to gain access to the jewellery shop in Arksey Lane on 23rd February, and waited until 67-year-old assistant Thelma Dixon arrived at 9am to open up.
Mrs Dixon heard a noise, then someone jumped over the counter, took her arm and held a knife to her face as he shouted ‘do as you’re told’, said Jeremy Evans, prosecuting.
She was told not to look at the men’s faces as zip-ties were pulled around her wrists and she was led to the safes, which she was made to open at knifepoint.
As they removed the gold, Mrs Dixon’s husband, who works in the next door Soper’s DIY shop, heard aggressive shouting and realised something was wrong so dialled 999.
“Police were at the scene extremely quickly and Mrs Dixon ran to the front door in a visibly distressed state, physically shaking, still with the ties on her arms,” said Mr Evans.
One police officer ran to the back and saw three men leap from the roof. He grabbed Robert Marvell, 31.
Another officer found Graham William Gallon, 25, in a garden in Balfour Road, and Marvell’s brother, Adam, 27, was spotted hiding in shrubs on wasteland near Arksey level crossing by members of the public and the police helicopter.
All the jewellery was recovered from a bin, and DNA evidence linked the defendants to the knife, a balaclava, and other weapons taken from Mr Soper’s shop.
Gallon, of Northumbria Close, Worksop, was jailed for six years and the Marvells, of Vicars Close, Worksop, each received five-and-a-half years. They all admitted robbery and possessing a blade.
Mr Evans said Mrs Dixon was afraid the gang would kill her during the robbery and was still affected.
The three men’s criminal records ran to a total of 185 previous convictions, but none for robbery.
Judge Jeremy Baker QC told them: “This had all the hallmarks of a professionally planned commercial robbery, with aggravating features in that disguises were worn, it was committed at knifepoint, and the haul of property was in excess of £300,000.”
Defending, Christopher Geeson said Gallon was not the man who set up the operation and was sorry for the effect it had on his victim. And Abigail Joyce, for Adam Marvell, said he had shown remorse by dictating a letter of apology to Mrs Dixon.
After the case, Det Sgt Maggie Hawksworth said: “South Yorkshire Police acted quickly to ensure the offenders were apprehended and the stolen property was recovered.
“We are pleased the offenders have received custodial sentences as this was a traumatic experience for the victim.”