'Career criminal' jailed over Budgens robbery

A MEMBER of a professional gang of crooks who disguised themselves as police to break into a Belsize Park supermarket has been jailed. James Williams, 49, was sentenced on Monday to 11 years imprisonment for robbing a worker at Budgens i

Ben McPartland

A MEMBER of a "professional" gang of crooks who disguised themselves as police to break into a Belsize Park supermarket has been jailed.

James Williams, 49, was sentenced on Monday to 11 years' imprisonment for robbing a worker at Budgens in Haverstock Hill on October 12 last year.

The career criminal with 33 previous convictions together with other gang members tricked their way into the store at about 8am, Blackfriars Crown Court heard.

Once they were inside, they pounced on employee Mr Ahmed. They handcuffed and locked him in a room while they tried to get into the cash tills.

They were unable to get their hands on the loot but fled with credit cards and a mobile phone belonging to Mr Ahmed.

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Williams was also sentenced to 11 years' imprisonment for robbing a Camden Town health foods warehouse on September 10

2008. The sentence will run concurrently.

Wiliams, of Marquis Road, Camden, is the third member of the gang to be jailed.

Terry Ellis, 44, and Dennis Carr, 36, a former UN peace keeper, were jailed in August for other robberies where the same methods were used.

Prosecuting barrister Camilla Da Silva said: "These two robberies were planned, targeted and ruthless criminal operations where the same method was used to carry out each of them.

"That method was a sophisticated one where bogus police uniforms and equipment were used to gain access to the premises so items of high value could be stolen."

CCTV images of Williams waiting outside Budgens on the morning of the robbery had been shown to the jury.

He had also been in possession of the jeep used to rob Marigold Health Foods warehouse in Camley Street just half an hour after the crime had been committed, the court heard.

Williams claimed he was simply looking after the car for a man named only as Peter from Dagenham.

He told the court he had been "fitted up"by police in the past.

After the trial, two of the many police officers investigating the case said that the sentences sent out a strong message.

DC Chris Minnighan said: "Williams is no stranger to prison. He is a typical career criminal and he has been described as that throughout.

"These crimes were purely down to financial greed.

"Williams was certainly the leader in the Budgens robbery.

"He was first through the door and the one who put his hands on Mr Ahmed. He was the lynchpin.

"These robberies and the method used undermine public confidence in the police.

"They had hoodwinked the victims sufficiently until a certain point in each robbery, all of which were wholly facilitated by them dressing up as police officers."

DC Tony Bellis added: "We are grateful for all the witnesses who were forced to come to court and give evidence.

"It is extremely rare for this type of offence to occur. But if someone claims to be a policeman then people should always insist on seeing a their warrant card. All officers will carry them."

Budgens manager Andrew Thornton was pleased with this week's verdict.

He told the Ham&High: "It's good that this man and the others are now behind bars because they have obviously caused a lot of trouble. The most concerning thing for me was the stress caused to my member of staff who was in the store that morning, but thankfully he is fine now.

"I am pleased that justice has been done and that this man is not around anymore."

Because of the nature of the robbery Mr Thornton has to urge staff to take precautions.

He said: "We now have a policy whereby if the store is closed and someone turns up in police uniform and does not show any ID then they will phone the police station if there is any doubt.