'Ruthless' ram-raiders terrorised region

A violent and ruthless gang who carried out more than 60 ram-raids and robberies across East Anglia targeted rural communities because they knew they were sparsely policed, a court heard yesterday.

A violent and ruthless gang who carried out more than 60 ram-raids and robberies across East Anglia targeted rural communities because they knew they were sparsely policed, a court heard yesterday.

Barry Street, 22, led a gang of five travellers on a spate of terrifying robberies across the region, targeting village shops and post offices and threatening staff with sawn-off shotguns, sledgehammers, axe handles and baseball bats.

Across Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire a number of towns and villages, including Fakenham, Dereham, Thursford, Fincham, Soham, Bungay and Dersingham, were targeted by the gang.

Between June 2004 and 2005 the group - Street, Rocky Buckley, 20, John Smith, 24, Stacey Smith, 21, Thomas Curtis, 24, John Curtis, 26 - who are all related - netted more than more than £500,000 in cash and property and caused in excess £500,000 of damage.

Each has admitted a number of offences including conspiracy to commit robbery with a firearm, conspiracy to commit aggravated burglary, conspiracy to burgle, conspiracy to steal, conspiracy to steal a motor vehicle and money laundering offences.

A seventh man, Rocky Curtis, 19, was also in the dock after admitting banking the gang's stolen cash.

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But yesterday, at the opening of their sentencing at Ipswich Crown Court it was revealed further members of the vicious group could still be at large.

John Farmer, prosecuting, told the court: “It is not the Crown's case that the defendants in the dock are the only persons involved.

“These offences, often led by Barry Street, were well organised, ruthless, almost always armed, and this gang was not afraid to use violence in their reckless attempts to obtain money. They showed gratuitous disregard for the property of others.

“They targeted commercial premises in small rural communities safe in the knowledge that police presence in such towns is generally sparse.”

He added that raids and robberies were meticulously planned and executed, with each gang member having a specific role and no one incident lasting longer than three or four minutes.

In the days leading to raid gang members stole cars for specific roles, often 4x4s for the ram raids, with high performance cars such as Subarus favoured as getaway cars.

Fleeing from the scenes of the crimes, the men drove at speeds of up to 120mph, in one case without the headlights of the car on, to avoid capture.

Yesterday, as the mitigation of the seven gang members began, Robin Wheatley for John Smith told the court that members of the gang currently on remand in Norwich Prison were highly regarded by staff for their exemplary behaviour.

He added: “Get them on their own in certain circumstances and you could not hope to meet a nicer bunch of young men.”

The gang will be sentenced today.