A TRIO of knife-wielding robbers who embarked on a reign of terror around Wigan are today behind bars.
Christopher Molyneux, Stephen Grimshaw and Mark Wohler were collectively sentenced to more than 25 years in jail after dozens of armed robberies and burglaries last year.
The three, who pleaded guilty to the offences, raided businesses brandishing weapons such as machetes, knives and hammers and “terrorised” the community, police said.
A judge told the trio, two of whom are already behind bars for similar offences, that some were particularly “chilling” and which have left their victims traumatised.
Many were threatened with weapons including knives, an axe and hammers by the masked raiders, two had machetes held to their throats, one was told her arm would be chopped off and others believed they might be shot.
Det Con Alison Wallwork said: “The streets of Wigan are certainly a lot safer now these three criminals are behind bars.
“These three men have been sentenced for their involvement in a series of robberies and burglaries and for anyone who was been subjected to this sort of violent and terrifying robbery, they will understand why it is so important men like this are locked up where they can cause no more harm.”
Molyneux, 26, of no fixed abode, Grimshaw, 30 of Walnut Grove, Leigh, and Wohler, 28, of Bond Street, Leigh, stole cars and motorbikes worth hundreds of thousands of pounds which were then used to commit the offences.
Throughout January to April last year, dozens of robberies and burglaries were committed across the borough - including both private and business property - including addresses in Atherton, Leigh, Hindley, Astley and Lowton.
Police officers said the three would threaten staff members who would then hand over money and cigarettes “in fear for their lives.”
Andrew Ford, prosecuting, told how the conspiracies involved a total of 27 substantive offences including nine terrifying robberies by the men their faces disguised by balaclavas. The Co-op store in Astley was attacked twice and on another occasion an attempt was made to rip out the outside cash machine.
The gang, who used cars and a motorbike stolen after keys were taken in burglaries, used duvet covers and pillow cases to haul away tens of thousands of cigarettes and also made off with cash, alcohol, computers and television sets.
CCTV footage from some of the targeted premises was shown in court including one robber brandishing a small lump hammer in the Co-op in Lowton which he pretended was a gun and threatened to shoot staff and staff were threatened in the Astley store that they had a gun. During a robbery at Frankie and Benny’s restaurant staff by three masked men, two brandishing machetes, were told to lie on the floor and one raider told his companion, “get the shooter out” before they left with £5,000. All the staff present “were left in bits and had all resigned within six weeks.”
During a second raid on the secluded detached home of a retired couple in Leigh they “climbed into the living room through the smashed front window.”
The frail 70-year-old tried to protect his wife, whom they manhandled, but suffered cuts to his hand while using a piece of glass in a tussle.
He was taken to hospital for stitches and Grimshaw also later attended A&E with similar injuries.
The judge described it as one of the “most wicked” of the offences.
The last robbery on April 12 involved H&T pawnbrokers with three masked men arriving on a distinctive stolen motor bike and they used sledgehammers to smash display cabinets and made off with more than £5,000 worth of jewellery.
At Liverpool Crown Court Molyneux, Who is already serving nine years for robbery and conspiracy to burgle, was sentenced to a further nine years in prison. As he was led to the cells he told Judge Watson “nice one.”
Grimshaw, who is serving five years and three months for the same previous offences as Molyneux, was handed an eight-year term and Wohler, eight years, four months.
Det Con Wallwork added: “The result sends out a clear message that this type of crime will not be tolerated.
“We are committed to safeguarding people from violent, career criminals who do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their aims.”
At the end of the hearing Judge Watson praised the officers involved in the investigation, codenamed Operation Rutlands.
Between 12.15am and 6.30am on 9 March 2012 a silver Ford Focus was stolen from outside an address on Westleigh Lane, Leigh.
Between 5pm on Sunday 22 January and 8.40am on Monday 23 January 2012 a set of registration plates were stolen from a car parked on Erica Walk, Leigh.
At 9.25pm on Monday 23 January 2012 an armed robbery was committed at the Co-op store on Gadfield Grove, Atherton. Cash and a large amount of cigarettes were stolen during the robbery.
Between 5pm on Thursday 26 January and 7.30am on Friday 27 January 2012 a burglary was committed at Choice Teachers, Derby Street, Leigh. Computers with the value of £2,900 were stolen.
Between 6.30pm on Thursday 26 January and 7am on Friday 27 January 2012 a burglary was committed at Woodscope Joinery, Hope Carr Road, Leigh. Two laptops with a value of £600 were stolen.
At 2.04am on Wednesday 15 February 2012 a burglary was committed at an address on Longacre, Leigh. Items of property were stolen including the car keys for a silver Audi A56 which was parked outside. The offenders drove off in the car.
At 9.10pm on Saturday 18 February an armed robbery was committed at the Co-op store on Common lane, Culcheth. A large quantity of cash and cigarettes were stolen.
Between 6pm on Monday 20 February 2012 and 8.15am on Tuesday 21 February 2012a burglary was committed at B & D Civil Engineers on Chapel street, Leigh.
Computer equipment, mobile phones, cash, paper work and car keys were stolen.
The key they stole were for a white Audi A4 which was parked in the yard. The offenders drove off in the car.
Between 1am and 1.09am on Tuesday 12 February 2012 a burglary was committed at Leigh crickets Club, Beech Walk, Leigh. Two televisions, a blackberry mobile phone and cash was stolen.
At 1.30am on Tuesday 12 February 2012 a burglary was committed at Total Service station, Mill lane, Newton-Le-Willows. A quantity of cigarettes and cash was stolen.
Between 4.15am and 4.20am on Tuesday 21 February 2012 there was an attempt burglary was committed at the Co-op Store on The Gables, Astley.
At about 4.40am on Tuesday 21 February 2012 a burglary was committed at Tesco Express on Bolton Road, Ashton-in-Makerfield. A large number of cigarettes and alcohol were stolen.
At 12.40am ion Thursday 23 February 2012 a burglary was committed at an address on Brookfield Road, Culceth. A gold Renault Megane which was stolen.
At 8.51pm on Friday 24 February 2012 an armed robbery was committed at the Co-op Store , Church Lane, Lowton. A large quantity of cash and cigarettes were stolen.
At 8.10pm on Saturday 25 February 2012 an aggravated burglary was committed at an address on Hurst Street, Leigh. Cash was stolen during the burglary.
Between 11.45am and 12.15pm on Monday 27 February 2012 a burglary occurred at an address on Craven Avenue, Lowton. A blue ford Focus was stolen.
At about 9.20pm on Tuesday 28 February 2012 an armed robbery was committed at the Co-op, The Gables, Astley. Cash was stolen during the robbery.
Between 10.45pm on Wednesday 29 February 2012 and 8.22am on Thursday 1 March 2012 a burglary was committed at The real; china Oriental Buffet, Derby Street, Leigh. Cash and alcohol was stolen during the burglary.
Between 12.30am and 12.40am on Sunday 4 march 2012 a burglary was committed at an address on Beech Crescent, Leigh. A blue Volkswagen Polo was stolen from outside the house.
Between 9pm on Saturday 3 March and 12.30am on Sunday 4 March 2012 a burglary was committed at an address on hand Lane, Leigh. They failed to enter the house, however caused damage costing £1,250.
Between 11pm on Saturday 3 march 2013 and 3am on Sunday 4 March 2012 an attempt burglary was committed at the Waterside Inn, Canal Street, Leigh.
Between 2am and 3am on Sunday 4 March 2012 a burglary was committed at Frankie and bennies, the loom Retail Park, Derby Street, Leigh. £4,000 worth of damage was caused and cash and computers were stolen.
On Sunday 4 March 2012 a 900CC black Honda Fire Blade was stolen from outside an address on Phillips Street, Leigh.
At 10.58pm on Sunday 4 March 2012 an armed robbery was committed at Frankie and Bennys restaurant on Derby Street, Leigh. A large amount of cash was stolen during the robbery.
At 7.05pm on Wednesday 7 March 2012 an armed robbery at Nobles Amusements, Bradshawgate, Leigh. A large quantity and tokens were stolen.
At about 12.24am on Wednesday 4 April 2012 a burglary was committed at Leigh East Social Club, Ledgard Avenue, Leigh. A flat screen television and the offenders caused £1,700 of damage.
At 9.40pm on Thursday 5 April 2012 an armed robbery was committed at the Co-op, The Gables, Astley. Cigarettes and cash were stolen during the robbery.
At 9.35pm on Saturday 7 April 2012 an armed robbery at the Co-op Store, Coach Road, Astley. A small amount of cash was stolen during the robbery.
At 10.20pm on Sunday 8 April 2012 an aggravated burglary was committed at an address on New Barn Lane, Leigh. Nothing was stolen during the burglary, but the offenders caused over £300 of damage.
Between 11pm on Sunday 8 April and 11am on Monday 9 April 2012 a burglary was committed at the Real China Oriental Buffet, Leigh. Cash and property was stolen during the burglary.
At 11.30pm on Monday 9 April 2012 an armed robbery was committed at Astley Labour club, Manchester Road, Astley. Cash and a mobile was stolen during the robbery.
Between 5.30pm on Thursday 10 April and 8.45am on Wednesday 11 April 2012 a burglary was committed at B and D Croft, Chapel Street, Leigh. Three mobile phones and a laptop were stolen during the robbery.
At 11.05pm on Wednesday 11 April 2012 an armed robbery was committed at Tesco Express, Atherton Road, Hindley. Cash was stolen during the robbery.
At 5.20pm on Thursday 12 April 2012 an armed robbery was committed at Harvey and Thompson Pawnbrokers, Bradshawgate, Leigh. Jewellery worth over £5,000 was stolen during the burglary.