Page last updated at 17:17 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 18:17 UK

Armed robber 'flees the country'

An armed robber who was found guilty of stealing jewellery worth 1.5 million is thought to have fled the country.

Elliott Burton, 38, of South Acre Avenue, Birmingham, was convicted of taking part in nine raids by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court.

But the court was told he absconded while on bail on Thursday.

Co-defendant Luke Nash, 25, of Newlyn Road, Birmingham, was found guilty of robbing a jewellery shop in Winchester, Hampshire, in December 2006.

He was also found guilty of possessing an imitation firearm during the raid.

In the first raid a gun was held to my head as I shielded a lady who was eight months' pregnant
Jeremy France, jeweller

A third member of the gang, Simon Waller, 28, of Outwood Drive, Birmingham, pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to a string of robberies between November 2005 and May 2007. He is awaiting sentencing.

The court was told the gang stole jewellery from shops across the Midlands and the South.

Their largest heist saw them steal 87 luxury watches worth about 500,000 from Rudell The Jewellers, on High Street, Harborne, Birmingham, in May 2006.

Following the conviction, Judge Trevor Faber told the jury that the court had "no idea" where Burton had gone.

Prosecutor Charles Gabb said he believed Burton had fled the country.

'Hi-tech system'

The court was told the gang were caught after trying to raid Jeremy France Jewellers, in Winchester, for a second time in December 2006.

Mr France had installed a smoke machine and a hi-tech SmartWater system, which coated the raiders in a unique combination of chemicals as they fled.

Outside court, Mr France said: "The robbers were very unpleasant. In the first raid a gun was held to my head as I shielded a lady who was eight months' pregnant."

He said his dog Daisy had alerted him to trouble the second time around.

He said: "She never barks, but when she saw all these men wearing ski masks come into the shop she started barking her head-off.

"So I looked up, saw the men, and pushed the button for the smoke machine."

"They got such a shock, they obviously had no idea we had installed it."




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