Fenstanton man jailed for his part in bungled robberies

Michael Esaw has been jailed for his part in the attempted robbery of three stores

Michael Esaw has been jailed for his part in the attempted robbery of three stores - Credit: Archant

Two men who were wearing balaclavas and armed with weapons during a bungled attempt to rob three stores in Cambridgeshire have been jailed today (Wednesday).

Craig Downer has been jailed

Craig Downer has been jailed - Credit: Archant

Cousins Craig Downer, 29, of York Road, in Wisbech, and Michael Esaw, 31, of Low Road, Fenstanton, demanded cash from staff during the crime spree, which lasted just half an hour, Cambridge Crown Court heard.

They walked into Costcutter in St Peters Road, March, and the store manager who was in the back office and saw the pair on CCTV.

Downer and Esaw were both wearing balaclavas and armed with spanners. They shouted at the manager and demanded money from the till, but were left confused when the manager asked them what till they were demanding the cash from and fled empty handed after being chased by the manager.

They left in a Nissan Micra and just five minutes later targeted the Robin Hood service station in Wimblington Road.

Downer approached the till, carrying a monkey wrench and demanded the service station worker put money in a bag he was carrying.

The worker stated he couldn't open the till, at which point Downer hit the till with the wrench and Esaw hit it twice with an axe. The pair caused £600 of damage to the till, but again left empty handed.

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At 9.19pm, Downer and Esaw entered the BP service station in Applegreen services, Chatteris.

Esaw remained at the entrance while Downer approached the till and again demanded cash from the staff member.

The staff member refused and Downer hit the till with the monkey wrench. The till fell to the floor and Downer tried to pull the wires from it, with no success.

For a third time, the pair left empty handed and caused £600 of damage to the till.

In all three attempted robberies, the men were wearing the same clothing and, between them, they carried a blue and red Lonsdale rucksack.

Officers out in the county on patrol were made aware of the make and model of their car, together with a partial number plate.

One officer spotted the car at 9.46pm in Willingham, but was unsuccessful in getting it to stop. A second officer then spotted the car at just after 1.30am in St Ives and followed.

Downer and Esaw were seen to stop near Crystal Lakes Caravan Park before running from the vehicle on foot.

Officers searched the area and the pair were found inside a caravan at the park.

The key to the Nissan was found in Downer's trouser pocket, with both men wearing the same clothing as in the three attempted robberies.

Further items of clothing used in the robberies were strewn around the caravan - with a green jacket found in the kitchen, a black balaclava found hidden under a sheet and a second balaclava recovered from a nearby ditch.

Both men denied the offences and they stood trial at Cambridge Crown Court.

However, Esaw pleaded guilty on the day of his trial, while Downer admitted the offences the following day, after jurors had been selected.

Both men were sentenced today (July 31) where they were each handed a prison sentence of four years and six months.

DC Victoria Speirs, who investigated together with DC James Bennett, said: "Esaw and Downer thought nothing of going into the shops armed with weapons, terrifying staff in the process.

"I would like to applaud the bravery of the shop manager who chased them from the Costcutter store and others for not handing over any money.

"Both defendants were brazen in the way they entered the locations, but on all three occasions they left empty-handed and there was strong evidence against them."