TER­ROR AT GUN­POINT The mo­ment in­ter­na­tional armed jewel gang threat­ened shop worker

Midweek Sport - - NEWS - By SA­MAN­THA YULE

THE final nail in the cof­fin of a bunch of in­ter­na­tional armed rob­bers came yes­ter­day with the jail­ing of the last mem­ber of the gang.

Janno Heinola, 33, was banged up for nine years to bring to an end the seven-year po­lice op­er­a­tion.

The gang jet­ted from one coun­try to an­other on cheap bud­get air­lines, pick­ing up their in­struc­tions from a “fixer” when they landed.

Eight men have now been locked up for a to­tal of 82 years af­ter West York­shire Po­lice smashed the crime ring when Berry’s jew­ellers, in Leeds, West Yorks, was tar­geted four times be­tween 2005 and 2007.

They found the Es­to­nian ring was linked to at least 150 armed rob­beries across the UK and Europe, in which the gang used cheap air­lines to hit their desti­na­tions.

A ter­ri­fy­ing im­age show­ing one of the gang mem­bers point­ing a gun at cow­er­ing mem­bers of staff in a 2007 raid be­came the im­age to epit­o­mise the bru­tal­ity of their rob­bery cam­paign.

The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Col­lier QC, praised West York­shire de­tec­tives for their “dogged pur­suit” of the gang mem­bers.

Heinola and two other men tar­geted Berry’s on Al­bion Street on Au­gust 6, 2005, threat­en­ing seven mem­bers of staff and a young fam­ily.

One of the men pointed a gun as £92,750 worth of Rolex and Cartier watches were stolen. Heinola was caught af­ter his DNA was found on a cig­a­rette butt found near where he had been sit­ting mo­ments be­fore the rob­bery.


In Fe­bru­ary, Heinola was ex­tra­dited by West York­shire de­tec­tives from Dus­sel­dorf, Ger­many, af­ter com­plet­ing a jail term for an ear­lier rob­bery in that coun­try.

Heinola pleaded guilty to rob­bery and pos­ses­sion of an im­i­ta­tion firearm with in­tent. He is the last of gang of eight to have been brought to jus­tice in Bri­tain since 2009.

The oth­ers jailed were: Algo Toomits (12 years), Sarik San­der (11 years), Rauno Kuk­lase, Ivo Parn and Reigo Janes (10 years each), Raivo Loige, (eight years) and Joonas Jarv­soo (12 years).

De­tec­tives from West York­shire led the in­ves­ti­ga­tion on be­half of other UK forces in­clud­ing West Mid­lands and Greater Manch­ester lead­ing to gang mem­bers plead­ing guilty to 11 armed rob­beries across the coun­try.

This in­cluded day­light raids at high end jew­ellers in Manch­ester, New­cas­tle, Wolver­hamp­ton and Ch­ester.

The gang is thought to have net­ted more than £2m from the 11 UK raids and made over £100mil­lion from rob­beries across Europe in­clud­ing raids in Fin­land, Italy, Swe­den and Monte Carlo.

Of­fi­cers be­lieve the jew­ellery, mainly com­pris­ing Rolex and Patek Philippe watches, was shipped out of the coun­try sep­a­rately on cargo ships be­fore be­ing sold on in East­ern Europe or Rus­sia.

Det Insp Lloyd Bat­ley said: “This marks the end of a num­ber of years hard work by de­tec­tives, who have traced eight sus­pects across Europe in or­der to bring them to jus­tice in Leeds.”

He said that Es­to­nia’s join­ing the EU, cou­pled with cheap flights, en­cour­aged rob­bers to carry out raids and dis­ap­pear back to the coun­try’s cap­tial, Tallinn.

Det Insp Bat­ley said: “The in­tel­li­gence sug­gests the ring­leaders re­cruited foot-sol­diers by get­ting them in­volved in debt and when they could not re­pay that debt they were given these jobs to do.

“They would then be booked onto cheap flights in a group to com­mit these rob­beries.

“They al­ready had con­tacts in the UK who would usu­ally re­con­nais­sance the premises.

They used ham­mers but also im­i­ta­tion hand­guns we be­lieve they picked up lo­cally.

“Once the watches had been stolen they of­ten changed cloth­ing and dis­carded it nearby – which is how we re­cov­ered DNA – then the watches changed hands.

The group would then go back the next day and the stolen mer­chan­dise usu­ally went out of the coun­try through ferry chan­nels.

FEAR: The thieves were caught on cam­era

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