A SOUTH Tyneside man who helped mastermind an armed “invasion” of a businessman’s home has been jailed.
Anthony Sweeting’s gang hoped to get their hands on cash, diamonds, Rolex watches and jewellery belonging to their intended 66-year-old victim and his family.
When armed police stopped vehicles heading towards the family’s Northumberland address, where a large sum of money was being stored, they found the raiders were equipped with an imitation firearm, masks and tapes to be used in the terrifying raid.
At a previous court hearing the gang members were jailed for a total of almost 50 years.
At Newcastle Crown Court yesterday Anthony Sweeting, who is originally from South Shields, was sentenced to six years and nine months in jail.
The 49-year-old had been due to stand trial, but pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob before a jury was sworn in.
Judge John Evans told him: “One way or another, you and the others discovered there was at least a prospect of money being at the home.”
The court heard police had been tipped off about a planned raid, and had the gang under surveillance in the weeks leading up to it.
The judge added: “Thankfully the offence was foiled.
“He knew you, and you made sure that you stayed away from the immediate vicinity of his home, thereby hoping you would ultimately evade detection.”
The judge commended police who worked on the case, saying: “It was a very impressive investigation.”
Sweeting, who used disposable mobiles in a bid to hide his involvement, was linked to the raid through phone records and other “circumstantial evidence”.
James Adkin, prosecuting, said: “The evidence suggests this defendant was particularly careful in the build-up to this robbery.
“His phone goes silent on the morning after the robbery and is never seen or heard of again.
“The defendant made to distance himself from the robbers.
“He didn’t get his hands dirty by being in direct contact with the footsoldiers.”
The court heard Sweeting, of The Dene, Medomsley, near Consett, has a young child, and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, which affects his behaviour.
The intended target was left “devastated” by the knowledge he had been targeted in such a way.
Judge John Evans told the gang at the last hearing: “In all probability the intention was to burst into the home, armed with an imitation firearm, and by that means force him to reveal the whereabouts of any cash he kept in the house, or the location of any other valuables.”
At the last hearing Sam Ward, 22, of Ferry Approach, South Shields, David Smith, 24, of Eskdale Drive, Jarrow, David Perrin, 36, of Rippon Street, Gateshead, Terry McEwen, 42, of Haggle Avenue, Wallsend, and Stephen Clements, 35, of West Victoria Street, Consett, all admitted conspiracy to rob and possession of an imitation firearm.
Paul Momat, 26, of Ferry Approach, South Shields, was found guilty of conspiracy to rob after a trial by a jury where he denied any involvement. He was jailed for eight years.
Former Royal Marine Ward, who has never been in trouble before and was discharged from serving his country on medical grounds, was jailed for six years.
Smith was jailed for seven years, Perrin, who has previous convictions for robbery and kidnap, was jailed for 10 years, McEwen was jailed for seven years, and Clements was jailed for six years.
Prosecutors say the gang struck lucky in choosing their target due to Momat, who ran a car wash firm near the intended victim’s business, knowing how successful he was.
The court heard police, who had been tipped off about the planned raid, were lying in wait for the gang to strike on March 8, and stopped the attackers in two cars, one on the A1 north of Newcastle and one in Morpeth.
The gang members had been under secret surveillance, and their phone calls had been monitored in the previous days.
Mr Adkin said the raid was to be a “carefully planned and executed home invasion”.
In a series of text messages the gang talked about targeting diamonds, Rolex watches and jewellery, and said the family “were minted”.