A MAN who plotted seven armed robberies with meticulous precision across Halton has been jailed for 10 years.
Masked robbers armed with machetes, axes and CS spray, burst into supermarkets, including six Co-ops, threatening staff and customers, in a six week reign of terror, last year.
Anton Kost, aged 30, of Rycot Road, Speke, was convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery by a jury after a two week trial at Warrington Crown Court.
Sentencing him on Monday, Judge Nick Woodward said: “This execution of offences was conducted in a determined and planned manner. This has the hallmarks of a professional gang.
“There is striking evidence you were involved in a massively organised campaign. Extreme precautions were taken not to be identified.
“It was clearly a conspiracy with a number of offences at specifically targetted premises carried out at night when staff are at their most vulnerable and the day’s takings approaching their maximum.
“People were placed in considerable fear, fear of their lives.
“I am aware that the police, in particular the investigating officer, put an enormous amount of work in to secure this conviction.”
Prosecutor Peter Moss said: “Kost has a string of previous convictions with 110 offences and 37 court appearances.”
These include 20 driving whilst disqualified, two burglaries, three intent to supply drugs and one section 20 assault.
Kost was arrested after being spotted wearing surgical gloves near the Co-op in Balfour Street and driving on stolen number plates.
Giving evidence, Kost said he was wearing gloves because he didn’t want to leave fingerprints on cannabis cultivation equipment which he dealt with daily.
The Co-op at Ridgeway, Murdishaw, was robbed twice, whilst Co-ops in Halton Road and Balfour Street in Runcorn, Warrington Road, Penketh and Borras Park Road, Wrexham, and the PGS Off Licence in Peelhouse Lane, Widnes, were raided between 7pm and 9pm, from October 10 and November 29, 2011.
Defending, Brendan Burke said: “Both Kost’s parents are struggling with health. His father has leukemia and his mother has emphysema. He fears, if things go badly, he’ll be in custody at a difficult time.”
Speaking afterwards, investigating officer DC Mark Naylor, said: “ It was terrifying for the staff. Knives were held to their throats.
“Many have been left extremely traumatised.
“The frightening thing about the offences is that one robber used an axe to chop down a perspex door. If people had challenged him whilst he was topped up on adrenalin, it could have been extremely serious.”
He commended the Co-op security guard who raised the alarm.
DC Naylor said: “He recognised that a male was acting suspiciously wearing surgical gloves and got the registration number of his car. It was extremely commendable. He did a very good job.
“Kost was a key player.
“I am really pleased with this sentence. It sends out a warning to others that if you come into Halton to break the law, you will be actively targeted, caught and punished.”