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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 14:46 GMT 15:46 UK
'Steaming gang' given 25 years
Michael Onward
Michael Onward, 21, is the eldest of the five sentenced
Five members of a "steaming" gang have been jailed for a total of 25 years for a two-week robbery campaign.

The self-styled Lords of Stratford Crew targeted people on London trains, Tubes and buses, Middlesex Guildhall Crown Court heard.

The jury was told that extreme violence was used yet they only stole items like small change and cigarettes.

The five were convicted of three counts of conspiracy to rob involving 12 victims last autumn.

Four of them were juveniles, but the judge, who described their "gratuitous violence" as "dreadful" and "beyond belief", ordered them to be identified.

Clockwise from top left: Dennis Barrette, Oshane Francis, Michael Silcott and Jerry McPherson
Michael Onward, 21, from, Ilford, Essex
Dennis Barrette, 16, of Ilford
Jerry McPherson, 17, of Wood Green, north London
Michael Silcott, 17, of Stoke Newington, north London
Oshane Francis, 16, of Hackney Wick, east London
Other members of the gang are yet to be caught.

Steaming became the slang phrase used to describe attacks by gangs, usually involving excessive violence, on individuals on trains or buses.

Those involved had "street tags" like Killer, Packman and Driller and police believe they were in it "mainly for the kicks and thrills".

The court heard victims would suffer a "maelstrom" of fists and feet and some were even stamped on and left "virtually senseless" by what one witness branded as a "pack of wild animals".

One train passenger, builder John Tovey, told police he thought he was going to die as he was kicked in the head.

Mr Tovey is still unable to see properly and has had to give up work and move out of London.

If this series of robberies had not been stopped when it was I'm sure we would eventually have ended up with a murder inquiry
Detective Constable Gary Wildeman
Another victim, a lone woman was held in a headlock as several robbers took turns to hit her in the head, in front of dozens of other commuters.

She was then subjected to a "serious" sex attack.

Sentencing each to five years' custody, with the teenagers serving their terms in a young offenders institution, Judge Henry Blacksell, said: "It was, in my judgment, an aspect of this offending that you enjoyed the humiliation [of your victims].

"You picked on people who were weak and vulnerable ... and not content with taking their property you beat them up. You targeted them. It was gratuitous violence."

Outside court, British Transport Police's Detective Constable Gary Wildeman, said: "If this series of robberies had not been stopped when it was, I'm sure we would eventually have ended up with a murder inquiry.

"They have no morals, and no concept that others have feelings or rights. They are just totally ruthless ... and on their own, complete cowards."

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