A gang plotted to steal from a wealthy Northumberland businessman by breaking into his home and threatening him and his wife at gunpoint.
Six people have been jailed for a total of 44 years after police smashed the sophisticated conspiracy to rob Alan Johnson.
The 66-year-old ran a successful tyre shop and was known to the gang’s ringleader, who owned a car wash next door.
Mr Johnson’s house in Morpeth had been cased and the gang were on their way to strike when police, who had been watching their every move, closed in.
When firearms officers pulled them over they were found to be armed with a gun, masks, tape and two getaway cars.
Mr Johnson, who owns Tip Top Tyres, in South Shields, had come to the attention of Paul Momat as a target because of his successful business.
While running his car wash next to Mr Johnson’s shop, Momat became familiar with the pensioner’s routines and a plan was hatched to terrorise him into handing over valuables.
James Adkin, prosecuting, said: “The defendants had carefully planned to execute a “home invasion” style robbery, that is to say they planned to gain entry to Mr Johnson’s home address when they knew he was in.
“Then they would have threatened, intimidated and used force if necessary in order that they could steal whatever valuables they could lay their hands on.
“One of them, the defendant David Perrin, would have been armed with a realistic imitation firearm which would no doubt have been used to instill fear in Mr Johnson and his wife.
“Other useful tools for violent robbers were readily available to the defendants in the form of masks, gloves, tape, two getaway cars and pre-paid, unregistered mobile phones had been distributed by Momat.” The court heard how on March 8 police had the gang under surveillance as they travelled to Morpeth in convoy.
They had already made various reconnaisance trips to scout Mr Johnson’s home as they planned the raid.
Mr Adkin said: “The prosecution case is that there was a carefully planned robbery to be carried out.
“The robbers would have needed to see the house they were going into, check the doors, peer inside to make sure it was worth their while, see where they could park their cars for a quick getaway and consider their exit strategy.”
Just before the robbers struck, the police intervened and firearms officers stopped two cars.
A red Renault Clio was stopped on Thorp Avenue, Morpeth at about 6.35pm. The driver of that car was the David Smith, the front seat passenger was Perrin and the rear seat passenger was Sam Ward.
The imitation firearm was found beneath the front passenger seat where Perrin was sitting and had his DNA on it. A mask and gloves in the Clio had the DNA of Smith on them.
The second car was a Toyota Rav4, which was stopped by firearms officers at 6.40 on an unnamed road which ran between the A197 at Clifton and Bet’s Lane Morpeth. The driver of the Rav 4 was Stephen Clements, his passenger was Terry McEwen.
Mr Adkin said: “Momat is a wily, surveillance aware criminal, he took the precaution of staying in the background and co-ordinating the other five.
“The prosecution cannot say for sure he was in Morpeth at the time the robbery took place but he had undoubtedly been involved in the planning.”
Momat, 26, of Ferry Approach, South Shields, was convicted of conspiracy to rob after a trial and was jailed for eight years.
The other five all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob and possessing an imitation firearm.
Perrin, 35, of Rippon Street, Gateshead,previously jailed for kidnap, was jailed for 10 years.
Smith, 24, of Eskdale Drive, Jarrow, and McEwen, 41, of Haggie Avenue, Wallsend, each got seven years.
Ward, 21, a former Marine, of Ferry Approach, South Shields, and Clements, 35, of West Victoria Street, Consett, was locked up for six years.