A brutish reign of terror is brought to end

A FORMER athletics champion is the latest brute to be put behind bars after a campaign of robberies against vulnerable women in Hampstead and Belsize Park

Tan Parsons

A FORMER athletics champion is the latest brute to be put behind bars after a campaign of robberies against vulnerable women in Hampstead and Belsize Park.

Devin Williams, 24, snatched £84,000 worth of jewellery from a string of female victims last summer, within days of walking out of prison.

One of his victims was nine months pregnant when Williams threatened to kill her, while another was pushing a pram when she was grabbed by the throat and robbed.

Former county runner Williams was joined by accomplices, most of whom are yet to be brought to justice, but the father of two now faces at least six years in jail before being considered for parole.

The prosecution comes after February's life sentence for Kevin Nevers, who carried out a similar campaign of terror on mothers and lone women in Hampstead.

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However, the robberies have continued, with fashion designer Nicole Farhi the latest victim a fortnight ago.

Southwark Crown Court heard last Wednesday that Williams, from Palermo Road in Harlesden, had a string of similar previous convictions to his name.

Prosecutor James Norman said: "Between May 7 and August 28 last year a gang of robbers carried out a number of brutal and callous attacks. They targeted women who were alone or with children.

"These were sudden and violent attacks, using force or the threat of force to steal jewellery worth tens of thousands of pounds, none of which has been recovered."

On May 7 2007, Williams, aided by others, targeted a woman pushing her 15-month old daughter in a buggy through the quiet streets of Belsize Park. Grabbing her by the neck, one of the men turned the pram to face the road while the others robbed the mother of £22,000 of jewellery.

On May 13, a mother had £16,000 worth of rings yanked off her fingers as she collected her seven-year-old boy from a birthday party in Hampstead.

Mr Norman said: "On July 23 a woman was with her young son and had parked outside her house in Hampstead Garden Suburb. She was nine months pregnant, which would have been apparent to anyone who saw her.

"As she got out of the car, she was approached by two men and told, 'Give us what you got or we are going to kill you.'"

They squeezed her neck, repeatedly threatening to kill her, before taking her ring, necklaces and bracelets worth £16,000.

Three days later they targeted a mother and her seven-year-old daughter, who lived just yards from the previous victim.

Mr Norman said: "As she [the mother] turned to close the door she saw a large black man in her hallway who asked, 'Do you want to die?' She was then dragged to her doorstep."

The robbers pulled off the woman's diamond and platinum engagement ring, worth £32,000.

At the time, Williams had just served a jail term for robbery and was out on licence. He was caught, along with accomplice, 25-year-old Jamie McKie, after police mounted an undercover operation and pounced on the pair immediately after they carried out a robbery in Maida Vale on August 28.

Passing sentence, Judge Stephen Robbins told the pair: "Anyone who follows the news will have seen there has been a startling increase in this type of premeditated, violent robbery targeting women.

"In your case Williams, it is made much worse by the fact that they were targeted, in one case when she was heavily pregnant or had children of tender years by their side."

Judge Robbins said the victims suffered "enduring psychological harm" after the attacks. Both Williams and McKie were locked up for at least six years.

Meanwhile police are continuing to warn women around Hampstead against flaunting expensive jewellery in public.