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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 July, 2005, 16:27 GMT 17:27 UK
Five jailed for armed robberies
Andrew Stephenson Wilson (from left), Dean Rankin and Christopher Pearson
The gang was kept under surveillance by police
Five men from Gtr Manchester have been sentenced after admitting a spate of armed robberies across England which netted 160,000.

The men, four from Manchester, pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court to conspiracy to commit robberies.

Stephen Clegg, Christopher Pearson, Dean Rankin, Andrew Stephenson Wilson and Michael Ossai, from Rochdale, were jailed for between seven and 16 years.

Police launched an operation, codenamed Lahore, in 2004 to track the gang.

Ossai, 36, of Tangmere Avenue in Heywood, was sentenced to 16 years.

Pearson, 27, of Seabright Walk, Beswick, received 12 years, Dean Rankin, 26, of Lynthorpe Road, New Moston, 10 years, Stephen Clegg, 26, of Rome Road, Collyhurst, 14 years and Wilson, 26, of Raycroft Road, Blackley, seven years.

Michael Ossai (l) and Stephen Clegg
The gang armed themselves in the final three robberies

Police said the five had operated in Greater Manchester, Lancaster, the North East and the south of England.

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) were assisted by forces in Lancashire, Northumbria, Devon & Cornwall, Hampshire and Sussex.

They said the gang was suspected of being involved in a series of cash-in-transit robberies and were kept under surveillance.

They targeted security guards delivering cash from security vans to banks and post offices.

Eight robberies were committed between July 2004 and January 2005, the GMP said.

All the victims of these attacks have been left traumatised by this ruthless and aggressive gang
Det Supt Mike Whiting

In the first five robberies no weapons were used. The gang used threatening behaviour and violence but were not armed.

In the final three robberies the gang armed themselves with weapons including a sword, machete and axe.

A total of 370 statements were taken from witnesses during the investigation.

The head of GMP's Serious and Organised Crime Unit, Det Supt Mike Whiting, said: "We have worked closely with police forces throughout England to target and convict a team of extremely dangerous and determined individuals.

"Following the first five robberies they adopted a worrying approach of extreme violence towards their victims. All the victims of these attacks have been left traumatised by this ruthless and aggressive gang.

"Among the items discovered were expensive jewellery, designer clothes, 37,000 worth of cars, a state-of-the-art television system and nearly 40,000 in cash."

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