Notorious burka-clad ‘smash & grab’ gang sentenced

CourtsBy Sunday World
The gang caught on CCTV
The gang caught on CCTV

A gang of robbers involved in a string of high profile "smash and grabs" in London, including a £1.5 million raid on Selfridges department store while dressed in burkas have been convicted, Scotland Yard said.

2013 when the shutters were forced open and £20,000 of handbags were stolen, another at Jimmy Choo in March 2014 when gang members stole £22,000 worth of handbags and at Alexander McQueen's warehouse in Islington in November 2007 when laptops, clothing and handbags worth £50,000 were taken.

They were also behind the £1.5 million raid on Selfridges in June 2013 when the gang forced their way in to the Oxford Street store wearing burkas and armed with sledgehammers, Scotland Yard said.

"Untouchable" Reece Dunford, 31, from Essex, who was involved in every robbery, was caught after hand-picking a team of four to carry out a raid on Mappin and Webb in the City of London in April last year armed with axes and sledge hammers.

(Top row, from the left) Reece Dunford, David Mays, Vincent Kamara, Danny St Luce and (bottom row, from left) Hollie Dowding, Yair Cohen, Patrick Spencer O'Brien and Boz Burbridge


They initially escaped with over £300,000 worth of Rolex watches, before they were tracked down by police and arrested.

It was following the arrests that police uncovered the extent of the gang and their connections to 10 incidents dating back to 2007.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Simon Davison of the Flying Squad, said: "These smash and grabs were aggressive. Sometimes, the robbers threatened innocent people with sledgehammers and axes in order to get to the goods.

"Dunford was involved in every incident in one way or another and clearly started to think he was untouchable. These convictions are proof that the Flying Squad will relentlessly pursue anyone who tries to make a living from crimes like these."

Dunford, built up a reputation for handling high-value stolen goods and sold them on to buyers, including Hatton Garden jeweller Yair Cohen, 71, of Hackney.

The gang will be sentenced at the end of the month, Scotland Yard said.

The nine defendants are:

:: Reece Dunford, of Essex, 31, pleaded guilty to seven counts of conspiracy to handle stolen goods, one count of conspiracy to rob, two counts of conspiracy to burgle and one count of conspiracy to produce Class B drugs.

:: Hollie Dowding, 25, of Waltham Abbey, Essex, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy to handle stolen goods.

:: Boz Burbridge, 31, of Camden, David Mays, 33, of Bexley, and Danny St Luce, 29, of Islington, all pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to rob.

:: Yair Cohen, 71, of Hackney, was found guilty of three counts of handling stolen goods, one count of converting criminal property and one count of money laundering and another.

:: Rusudan Kritcheli, 49, from Hackney was found guilty of converting criminal property and one count of money laundering

:: Vincent Kamara, 28, of Camden, and Patrick Spencer O'Brien, 23, from Islington were both found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery.