Drug addicts jailed after bakery robbery

CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM Three crack cocaine addicts were jailed yesterday after a terrifying robbery at a Norfolk bakery in which a worker was threatened with a sawn-off shotgun and an axe.

CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM

Three crack cocaine addicts were jailed yesterday after a terrifying robbery at a Norfolk bakery in which a worker was threatened with a sawn-off shotgun and an axe.

Baker Royston Owen was working at Mr Bunn the Baker in Long Stratton on April 21 last year when he was confronted by two armed robbers and was made to hand over £500 in cash.

As well as money from the till he was made to draw money out of his account using a cash machine and was hit on the side of the head with the gun.

He was then forced to drive with the two robbers - Michael Roode, 28, and Nigel Bestford, 28 - to Norwich after their getaway driver, Vanessa Ponsford, 32, ran out of petrol.

The two men then made their escape and Mr Owen raised the alarm.

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Roode also admitted being involved in a robbery at the Lavender House, Brundall, and the Old Thorn Barn Bed and Breakfast in Hethel and more than 100 burglaries. He also admitted possessing the sawn-off shotgun.

Yesterday, the three robbers were sentenced at Norwich Crown Court.

Roode, of no fixed address, was given an indeterminate prison sentence under which he will not be considered for release until he has served at least three and half years.

Bestford, of Knowland Grove, Norwich, who was the robber armed with an axe and admitted robbery and possessing a shotgun, was given six years eight months.

Ponsford, of Edinburgh Road, Norwich, was found guilty of robbery and of possessing a shotgun and was sentenced to six years eight months.

John Farmer, prosecuting, said: "Crack cocaine played a significant part in this case and was a driving force to fuel the crack cocaine habit all three shared."

Jailing the three, Judge Simon Barham said: "This was a terrifying ordeal for Mr Owen and lasted over an hour."

He said that Roode had been the ringleader as he had the sawn-off shotgun, but said that Bestford had also played a "significant role", while Ponsford had been the one to suggest robbing the bakery as she had once worked there.

Roode was also involved in another robbery, two days after the bakery raid, at the Old Thorn Barn Bed and Breakfast. He waited in a car while another man threatened the owners with a knife and a chair leg, escaping with cash, a mobile phone and a camera.

He also remained in the car when another man robbed a 47-year-old cleaner at the Lavender House Restaurant. She was threatened with a sawn-off single-barrel shotgun and her handbag and money were stolen.

Matthew McNiff, for Roode, told the court he had fully co-operated with police and was now drug free. He said: "It was his need to feed his habit that prompted his criminal behaviour."

Jonathan Goodman, for Bestford, said he was not the ringleader and since on remand had managed to get off drugs. "He sees things in a clearer perspective now," he said.

William Carter, for Ponsford, said the robbery had been fuelled by the need for drugs and added she had not confronted the victim.

He said she was now trying to deal with her drug addiction.

After the case, Det Sgt Richard Dickinson said: "This inquiry was a good example of a thorough and efficient investigation which showed excellent teamwork.

"These three individuals were involved in particularly vicious crimes which we believe took place to provide funds for their drug habits and which caused great distress to their victims.

"These sentences send out the message to other criminals that we will not tolerate this type of violent behaviour and will ensure that all efforts are made to bring those involved to justice."

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