Members of a “ruthless” organised crime gang which terrorised two security guards with axes during an armed bank raid have been jailed for a total of almost 27 years.
The thugs carefully planned to rob the Santander bank in Lytham, smashing their way into the branch before fleeing in a stolen getaway car with £85,000 in cash.
Two of the men smashed their way into the bank with axes. The security guards took refuge behind the counter of the bank, which was closed at the time
Ringleader Paul Pennington, of Ansdell, was jailed for almost seven years for helping to plan the raid along with three men from Manchester.
A fifth man, Joshua Farrer, from Blackpool, was given a suspended sentence for assisting an offender.
Preston Crown Court heard two G4S security guards attended Santander Bank on Clifton Street, Lytham, to restock the ATM machine around 8pm on November 26, 2013.
While they were inside, two men smashed the front door with axes, leaving them “severely traumatised”.
Speaking after the court hearing, Det Sgt Mark Dickinson, of Blackpool CID, who led the investigation, said: “It was a terrifying ordeal for the security guards.
“Two of the men smashed their way into the bank with axes. The security guards took refuge behind the counter of the bank, which was closed at the time.
“One of the males went to the counter and made threats with his axe while the other emptied the cash machine.”
The gang escaped with £85,000 in £20 notes, using a stolen getaway car waiting outside to escape.
The silver Ford Focus with false number plates was later found abandoned by police after it was driven to Norfolk Road, Marton, where the gang changed vehicles and continued their escape in a Vauxhall Astra that belonged to a member of Pennington’s family.
A second stolen vehicle was also found in the area by police during the investigation and it is thought this was used in the preparation of the robbery.
Following a lengthy investigation, police swooped on addresses in Fylde and Manchester in March last year, arresting six people. One was later acquitted.
Pennington, 31, of Tewkesbury Drive, Ansdell, Anthony Johnson, 24, Heathfield Drive, Swinton, Steven McGillvray, 38, Welwyn Drive, Salford, and Lee McKeever, 25, Rydal Crescent, Swinton, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob.
Farrer, 28, of Devonshire Road, Bispham, helped the gang lie low after the offence and admitted assisting an offender.
Det Sgt Dickinson said none of the men admitted to being the ones actually inside the bank, with Pennington and McGillvray both claiming to have been getaway drivers.
He added: “Pennington was attributed to doing the reconnaissance work and making various plans.
“These are organised criminals who would no doubt have gone on to commit further offences.
“This offence would have had a huge impact on the security guards who were left very shaken up.
“One needed counselling after the incident.”
Brett Gerrity, senior crown prosecutor for CPS North West, said: “The members of this organised crime gang each played their individual roles to plan and carry out this violent offence.
“They took axes with them to the bank and were fully prepared to use them in order to steal the money.
“They showed utter disregard for the safety of the two security guards who were simply doing the job they were paid to do.”
Pennington was sentenced to six years and nine months in jail. Johnson was jailed for eight years and one month plus four months for Section 47 ABH –giving a total of eight years and five months.
McGillvray was sentenced to seven years and six months in jail while McKeever was jailed for four years and six months plus eight months for possession with intent to supply cannabis – a total of five years and two months.
Farrer was sentenced to eight months in jail, suspended for two years, and 240 hours unpaid work.
The CPS confirmed it will now begin the process of trying to recover any assets the defendants have gained from their criminal lifestyle.
Mr Gerrity added: “We will now make full use of the Proceeds of Crime legislation to seek to strip these men of any assets they may have gained from their criminal activities.”