Page last updated at 15:15 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Jailed Cardiff bank robber to pay back 26,000

Car used in raid with personalised number plate
The car was spotted outside a rented house in Cardiff

A bank robber caught when a witness remembered the personalised number plate on his car has been ordered to pay-back his £26,000 share of the raid.

James Snell, 27, of Cardiff, used his BMW with the number J4 MES to plan a raid on the Halifax, where he and accomplices stole £100,000.

A member of the public remembered seeing the car as the gang stole drain covers used to smash the front window.

Snell admitted robbery at Cardiff Crown Court and was jailed for 10 years.

Three others were also jailed.

Carl Campion, 44, of Birmingham, denied robbery but was convicted and sentenced to 12 years.

Snell's brother Wayne, 34, also of Cardiff, and Adam Abbott, 38, of Hyde, Manchester, both admitted robbery and were jailed for eight years each.

The court heard that the gang decided to steal a heavy drain cover from the road to smash their way into a Halifax branch in Roath, Cardiff.

James Snell
James Snell's 'incompetence' led to his arrest, his defence said

A passer-by saw the car as it was stopped while one of the four lifted the drain cover from the road, and remembered the distinctive number plate.

Prosecutor Daniel Williams said: "Lee Norville, who works for the council's highways department, later identified one of the two covers used to smash the windows at a branch of Halifax as coming from that drain.

"It was the distinctiveness of the car which contributed to the robbers' undoing."

The four struck as security guards were delivering money to the branch just before midnight.

The court heard two of the gang used drain covers to smash windows while a third armed with a bat shouted threats.

Copycat raid

They got away with £104,910. Empty cash boxes were later found dumped in woods.

Police traced James Snell after the car was seen outside a rented home in Whitchurch, Cardiff, where they found more than £30,000 of the money.

James Snell admitted being involved in a copycat raid in Birmingham just weeks before.

Peter Wormwold, defending, said: "The lure of what appeared to be easy money was too strong for him. It was his youth, immaturity and incompetence which led to the arrest."

Judge Gareth Jones said £70,000 of the money was still missing, and called the operation a "professional, sophisticated, pre-planned robbery on commercial premises".

He told James Snell: "You were the getaway driver and that role is critical in any robbery."

Speaking after the case, Det Insp Paul Andrews of South Wales Police thanked those who had contacted them with information, "including the details of the car number plate".

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