A gang of four violent criminals who raided a branch of Ernest Jones for over £200,000 worth of Rolex watches have been jailed for a total of 33 years.
The robbery took place at the jewellery and watch chain’s Exeter store on February 11 this year.
Robert O’Connor, 26, Alistair McWilliams, 27, Omar Mentesh, 31, and Alex Morgan, 37, all pleaded guilty to the charges.
According to court reports, the men raided the store as it opened in the morning. The store’s supervisor, Nicola Bell, was in the store at the time, and tried to protect herself and her valuable merchandise by locking herself inside the Rolex cabinet.
However, the gang battered their way into the cabinet using a sledgehammer, showering the terrified manager with glass, before grabbing 30 Rolex watches.
They escaped in stolen Jaguar and Audi getaway cars that had been parked outside the store.
Before handing down a total of 33 years to the four criminals, Judge Francis Gilbert QC outlined details of what took place: "All four of you took part in a high value, violent robbery at Ernest Jones in Exeter, in the course of which 30 Rolex watches were stolen with a value of £208,850.
"Ernest Jones opened at 9am. You arrived at the scene with the stolen Jaguar at about 8.55. There were two ladies in preparing the shop for the day, which included supervisor Nicola Bell taking Rolex watches from the shop and placing them in a secure display area in the shop front.
"Nicola Bell was within that secure area at that time. Three of you are shown emerging from the Jaguar, Alex Morgan stayed inside the car to act as a getaway driver.
"Omar Mentesh struck the glass door with a hammer, the whole door fell inwards. Mentesh and O’Connor entered while McWilliams stood guard outside.
"O’Connor told Mentesh to smash the door to the display area where Nicola Bell was standing inches away from the glass as it was repeatedly hit with a claw hammer.
"It fell inwards onto her, showering her with glass and cutting her. Mentesh and O’Connor entered the display area and started sweeping watches into a bag."
"It must have been a terrifying experience for her," the judge added. "She was left traumatised by what happened."
None of the watches have been recovered, and police continue to urge jewellers to contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 if they are offered any suspicious Rolex watches.