Hampstead robberies: Inside the police chase which caught 8 violent criminals
- Credit: Met Police
"The group were quite determined - they were smashing away at the car. The officers both kept their cool in a difficult situation."
On July 19, 2019, two police officers were in an unmarked car which was attacked by the criminal group who's robberies and burglaries had terrorised Hampstead for much of that summer.
This came during a "high speed and dangerous" chase, in which a police helicopter helped officers to pursue four men - Jordan Northover, Steven Barton, Ryan Leurs and Cheyenne Cato - who were in a speeding Audi SQ2.
The quartet tried to break into the unmarked police car in Thurlow Crescent, Hampstead, using a metal bar - luckily the two officers inside were uninjured.
According to Det Sgt Gary Taylor and Det Const Adrian Whitewick, from the Met's Flying Squad, which helped put eight men in total behind bars for a string of violent crimes, the helicopter chase came after a pivotal week in their work to put a stop to the crime spree.
Families were terrorised in their bedrooms, and from St John's Wood and Brondesbury to Finchley and High Barnet, the gang committed a string of crimes - though only around 20 were put to them in court.
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Two streets in Hampstead - including Thurlow Crescent - were targeted twice, as was Hamilton Terrace in St John's Wood.
The Met closed in on the criminals at the start of the week before the chase.
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DC Whitewick told the Ham&High: "July 19 and 20 - and that whole week - were hugely significant for us. The Sunday previously there had been five offences, of which the fourth saw the SQ2 stolen.
"The three previously had been unsuccessful. That was a turning point."
The Audi SQ2, stolen from a family in Golders Green, was tracked to a yard in Hendon where it was "laid up on constantly changing plates", the officers said.
The Flying Squad set up surveillance on that car and was able to interrupt a break-in in Barnet.
Shortly afterwards, the gang, still under surveillance, tried to rob the two police officers.
Det Sgt Taylor said: "We don't know initially why. When that happened it was about 11.15pm. They just must have thought: 'There's a couple in that car. There are victims to target.'
"Whether the aim was stealing watches or similar, or stealing the car we don't know. They were quite determined - they were smashing away at the car."
The detective said the police officers kept their cool, and when the gang couldn't smash the car window, they returned to their car.
"We were then able to follow the car from a distance as they made off," he said.
"That then led to the pursuit, which came to an end near to Gospel Oak. We had the NPAS (National Police Air Service) helicopter involved.
"The pursuit lasted about 20 minutes."
It ended in Gordon House Road, Gospel Oak, where the four men ran from their vehicle towards a Hemingway Close flat which the group used as a "base" and where they stored their weapons.
Despite their attempts to flee, Northover, Barton, Leurs and Cato were arrested. Shortly afterwards, officers arrested the other four members of the group who would be jailed - Martin and Partick Delaney, Kiaron Jones-Hewitt and Andrew Kiasuka-Kiakanda.
This was the culmination of an investigation lasting months. The Flying Squad - renowned as the Met's elite robbery investigation team - was first called in to investigate the case after a March 30 attempted robbery in St John's Wood.
Det Sgt Taylor said: "The borough guys came to us with this problem of aggravated burglaries and driveway robberies.
"They had a few DNA hits on a bit of clothing found, and that gave us a bit of a starter for 10, as it were.
"The issue for us was that it was an interchangeable group. You'd see anything between two and six of the group committing any particular offence."
After picking up the case, the team began to track the crimes and build a picture of the wider conspiracy.
Det Const Whitewick said: "It's difficult when you're tackling chaotic criminal groups. Our aim is always to stop them before they commit offences.
"When they are driving at such high speed and with such disregard for public safety it's almost impossible to have them under constant surveillance."
The detectives said "targeting wealthy areas" was "a feature of this group's criminality".
Over three months, the group used machetes, "zombie knives" and in one case a firearm to strongarm victims into handing over valuables.
Sometimes working in smaller groups, the men would look for high-powered cars to steal, and then use them to commit further break-ins.
"From what we've seen from, for example social media, a lot of this often seems to be geared around status," Det Const Whitewick said.
"They'd steal jewellery to sell to a watch dealer and go back to the same dealer and buy something fancy.
"It is, it appears, about being seen to be cash rich even in otherwise deprived circumstances. It's quite sad."