Birmingham & Black Country

Gang 'smashed into bank in Birmingham with JCB'

An armed gang smashed their way through the rear wall of a bank after stealing a JCB normally used for digging graves from a nearby cemetery, a court heard.

The raiders targeted the UAE bank in Handsworth, Birmingham, after robbing, kidnapping and tying up three cemetery workers, the city's crown court heard.

It was told £21,000 was handed over at the bank after an armed robbery at Handsworth Cemetery on 12 January 2010.

Five people deny various charges connected to the case.

'Into the gutter'

One of them denies involvement in the robbery at the cemetery but has admitted robbing the UAE bank.

Masked raiders, armed with sawn-off shotguns and a 9mm pistol, targeted the bank, the court heard.

Opening the Crown's case against five people, Andrew Lockhart QC said the cemetery workers' ordeal ended only when they were "pushed out into the gutter" after the raids.

Alleging that a mixture of DNA testing, mobile phone analysis and other evidence proved the five defendants' guilt, Mr Lockhart told jurors that two men and a woman who worked at Handsworth Cemetery had been confronted at gunpoint.

Mr Lockhart told the jury that £5,314 in cash, a BMW car, a Ford van and the digger were all taken from Handsworth Cemetery.

He said two men and a woman who worked there had been confronted at gunpoint.

'Through the streets'

The kidnap victims had their arms and legs bound with cable ties and tape was used to cover the mouth of at least one of them, Mr Lockhart said.

He added: "They were then placed into the rear of that Ford van and the group of offenders, now along with these three people, drove through the streets of Handsworth bound for the UAE Exchange bank."

The JCB was then used to smash a hole in the wall of the bank, the QC said, before armed offenders went inside and forced staff to hand over £21,000.

At the same time, the kidnap victims were pushed into a gutter, where bystanders tried to help them but were threatened with guns.

The Crown alleges that Luke Daly, 26, Tracey Codrington, 44, Wesley Stewart, 61, Norman Grant, 44, and 30-year-old Aaron Hamilton formed a joint enterprise to commit the robberies.

All the defendants deny six counts of possessing a firearm at the time of committing an offence.

Kidnapping denied

Tracey Codrington, of George Street, Handsworth; Norman Grant, of Birchfield Road, Perry Barr; Wesley Stewart, of Galton Close, Pype Hayes; and Aaron Hamilton, of Cooksey Road, Small Heath, all Birmingham, further deny two counts of robbery.

Norman Grant, Wesley Stewart, Luke Daly and Aaron Hamilton have also pleaded not guilty to three charges of kidnapping.

Luke Daly, of Holly Park Drive, Erdington, Birmingham, denies involvement in the robbery at the cemetery but has admitted robbing the UAE bank.

The trial, which is expected to last for several weeks, was adjourned.

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