Gang who robbed jewellers armed with Samurai sword convicted

29 October 2019
Members of a gang who conspired to carry out an armed robbery on a jewellers in Bournemouth town centre have been found guilty.

Jonathan Oriba, 27 and of no fixed abode, Rowan McLaughlin, 31 and of Tregonwell Close in Bournemouth, and Sophie Rivers, 29 and of Church Lane in Tooting, London, were all convicted on Tuesday 29 October 2019 of conspiracy to rob at Franses and Sons in Westover Road following a trial at Southampton Crown Court.

A 52-year-old Bournemouth woman was found not guilty of the same offence.

Four other London members of the gang – Darrius Ingram, 26 and of Oxford Gardens in North Kensington, Rhys Gregg-Ball, 27 and of Hazel Grove, Sydenham, Shahid Sharif, 27 and of Church Lane in Tooting, and Aktil Tariq Ford, 27 and of Powis Terrance in Westbourne Green – had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob at previous hearings. 

All defendants who were convicted or entered guilty pleas will be sentenced at the same court on Thursday 28 November 2019.   

At around 12pm on Thursday 14 March 2019 Sharif, Ingram, Ford and a fourth man – who is still at large – travelled to the shop on three motorcycles with their faces concealed by crash helmets and face coverings.

One of the mopeds was ridden through the door of the jewellers and into the shop.

Armed with a Samurai sword and bottle of unknown liquid, Ingram threatened the security guard that he would take his head off if he did not do as he was told. 

Sharif held a second bottle of liquid in his hand, shouted that it contained acid and warned passing members of the public to stay away. Subsequent tests showed that the bottle contained a strong alkaline, which would have caused damage if it had come into contact with skin.

One woman was confronted by Ingram, who brandished the sword in her direction and threatened to cut off her head if she got involved.  

Dorset Police were alerted to the incident by a member of staff making a 999 call, a nearby store who pressed their panic alarm and members of the public. 

The entire incident was captured on CCTV from both inside the store and on town centre cameras. Members of the public also filmed part of the incident on their mobile phones. 

Ford went inside the store with an accomplice, who used a sledgehammer to smash glass cabinets. The pair then removed expensive watches and jewellery from the display cabinets inside the store and from the front display windows and placed them into black and white rucksacks.

In excess of £600,000-worth of stock was stolen.

The four men were then captured on town centre CCTV cameras leaving the scene on two mopeds. They were followed by a number of police vehicles but they managed to escape. 

One of the motorcycles was found dumped along with clothing, a bottle, receipt and a rucksack containing stolen watches and jewellery in a car park in Lansdowne Road. These items were later tested and were linked to Sharif and Ford. Investigations of their mobile phones then brought Rivers and Gregg-Ball into the investigation.

A second motorcycle, Samurai sword, helmets and more stolen items were found dumped in a car park near Florence Road in Boscombe. These were also subjected to forensic tests, which identified Ingram.

Detectives from Bournemouth CID launched a detailed and very complex investigation in a bid to identify all members of the gang behind the robbery.

They found evidence to suggest that Oriba was involved in planning and organising for the gang. McLaughlin allowed the gang to use his Bournemouth home as a base and Rivers manufactured false alibis for her then boyfriend Sharif and planned to profit from the proceeds of the robbery. 

A large scale operation was carried out in London and Bournemouth to arrest all the suspects on Thursday 11 April 2019.

Detective Sergeant Garry Knight, of Bournemouth CID, said: “This gang carried out a well-planned operation to target Franses Jewellers. They armed themselves with dangerous weapons in order to terrify staff working at the store and innocent members of the public to enable them to steal a large quantity of watches and jewellery.

“This incident has had a devastating and long-lasting impact on the store owners and its staff and I hope the verdict of the jury will go some way to help them begin to rebuild their lives.

“I am also confident that these convictions will send out a very stark reminder that Dorset is no soft touch for gangs and offenders. We will use every possible available resource to find you, apprehend you and bring you before the court.”