Episode 17 Caught Red Handed


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Episode 17

Dom Littlewood shows how technology is being used to catch crooks. A pregnant shop assistant comes face to face with a ruthless gang of robbers in a supermarket.


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Thieves will steal our cash, our cars, our valuables,

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just about anything they can get their hands on.

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But now the police are using cutting-edge technology

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to catch the bad guys.

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CCTV is gold dust.

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-Great evidence for the police.

-Got to have him stopped.

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Local councils, shops and businesses are fighting crime

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with their own tricks and traps.

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There's a eureka moment when you get that evidence.

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And the public are using secret cameras to make sure

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crooks get their comeuppance.

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It makes me feel so angry.

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He's paid the price. He is being dealt with.

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Yes! We've got her!

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So, anyone who is up to no good had better think twice -

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they might just get caught red-handed.

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Today, a terrifying moment in a supermarket

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when pregnant Candice and her colleague Sandra come face-to-face

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with a ruthless gang of robbers.

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It's the most horriblest thing in the world.

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I just said to them, leave her alone.

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And I'm hugging her and wouldn't let her go.

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They aren't the only shop workers to be traumatised...

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as the gang carries out a spree of raids all over Manchester.

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But the police are on their trail.

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Also today, a centre that helps adults with learning difficulties

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is haunted by a mysterious figure in the night.

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No broken glass, there's no broken locks, how he's got in,

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we were baffled.

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But all becomes clear a few days later.

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The intruder strikes again.

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He's a burglar and his actions threaten all the centre's good work.

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To burgle us once is heartless, but to come back, it's just callous.

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And when is an accident not an accident?

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When it's deliberately caused by the car that gets hit.

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This is a scam that every driver should know about.

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But first,

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a gang of robbers is on a seven-month rampage,

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raiding over 20 stores.

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Really violent, really chaotic, and they always had weapons with them.

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Really dominating the poor victims who were in these places.

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A game of cat and mouse between the police and the robbers

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leads to an explosive showdown in the high street.

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Six miles south-east of Manchester,

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this convenience store in the town of Bredbury is run by Krishan.

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After growing up helping in his father's shop,

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he has made the leap to running his own business.

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When I first got the shop, it was exciting

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and it was nerve-racking as well.

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It was hard to get the shop up and running.

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You just basically learn as you go.

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Learn from your mistakes.

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30p, please, mate.

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Krishan's father lent him the money to buy the store

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and he's desperate to repay his trust.

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I wanted to make my dad proud, to have him know that I could do it,

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I could run the shop and I can make it a success

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and pay him every penny back.

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But just three months after taking on the business,

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Krishan's dream comes crashing down when his shop is attacked

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by a ruthless gang of thieves.

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It's a Sunday evening in early autumn, closing time at the store,

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and Krishan has just locked up.

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Came home as normal, ate and went to bed.

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While Krishan sleeps, the CCTV cameras are running at his shop.

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It's 5am when these three hooded figures approach.

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One of them has a large bag, normally used to carry rubble,

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while another points a metal pole at the shutters protecting the store.

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What happens next is shocking.

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It's a ram raid with a 4x4 vehicle.

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They've not quite broken through,

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so the driver ploughs into the shop a second time...

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..destroying the front.

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The rest of the gang now pile in.

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An infrared camera inside picks them up in the dark

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as they ransack the store.

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The gang are inside for just over a minute

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before they come out carrying a builder's bag bulging with goods

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they've stolen from Krishan's shop.

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As they drive off, Krishan is woken at home

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when the shop's alarm system sends an alert straight to his mobile.

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The first thing I did was check the camera on my phone and I could see

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the shop is an absolute mess.

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Krishan drives straight there.

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When I got there, the whole window was caved in.

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I got inside and seeing the shop in pieces like that,

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it was devastating.

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He calls the police and then his family

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to come and help him clean up the shop.

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Krishan's losses and repair bill come to £10,000.

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All sorts was going round in my head.

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I was just in business for three months and then this has happened.

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I had a target to pay my dad back and this is going to set me back.

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I work hard, seven days a week,

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and yet these people think they can come in,

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they can rob and get away with it.

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And Krishan's isn't the only local business to be attacked.

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In South-east Greater Manchester,

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there have been four other raids on stores

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in the last month by armed robbers dressed in similar clothing.

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And unlike Krishan's,

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the robbers don't always wait for the businesses to close.

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They also regularly threaten staff and customers

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as they strip shelves and steal cash.

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Greater Manchester Police put their Serious And Organised Crime group

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on the case, led by Detective Inspector Robert Cousen.

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It was brought to my attention that there were so many striking

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similarities in these offences

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that it had to be the same team.

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Really violent, really chaotic, and they always had weapons with them,

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whether it be a baseball bat or a bar, and they went in there,

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really dominating the poor victims who were in these places,

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just doing an honest day's work.

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The first thing Robert's team find

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is there's also been a rise in car theft in the area.

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This group of lads who were committing these crimes

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would break into houses, they'd steal the keys to the cars

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and then they'd take them off the drive.

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They would then use those cars in these violent robberies.

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The 4x4 used to ram-raid Krishan's

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turns out to have been stolen two weeks previously.

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Watching CCTV evidence of the crime, one of the officers on the case,

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Roy Storey, notes how well-organised the gang is.

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It's typical of the type of offending they were doing.

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You can see this one here has got a scaffold bar in his hand,

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and whilst he is making sure nobody is leaving, to alert the police,

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you see the two offenders there climbing over the counter,

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they've got a large builder's bag here, that they open up,

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and then you will see them getting trays and trays of cigarettes

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from the display. Filling up that builder's bag.

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Using a similar method for every raid,

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the gang have been getting away with up to £20,000 worth

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of cigarettes each time.

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And with gloves worn and faces covered,

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this gang will be tough to track down.

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Later, in another shop raid,

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Sandra tries to protect her pregnant colleague Candice from a terrifying

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-violent attack.

-She was just sobbing her heart out.

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And all she was saying was, "I don't want them to hurt my baby."

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And desperate to stop this gang,

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the police mount a covert surveillance operation

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on their chief suspects.

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Can they catch them in the act?

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What we are looking at here is literally

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an accident that's waiting to happen.

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But this is no accident,

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because the driver of the blue car isn't a victim.

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He's a criminal.

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It turns out the driver has deliberately got a large truck

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to run into the back of him

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as part of a "crash for cash" insurance scam.

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This is how it works.

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The driver of the blue car

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is operating in tandem with the black car up ahead.

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Their target is the HGV truck behind them,

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whose in-cab camera footage we are viewing.

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The two cars stage a near miss

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and the driver of the blue car slams on his brakes so hard,

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the HGV truck is bound to hit him.

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Later, the car driver puts in a claim

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worth thousands for extensive damage to his car and injuries

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to himself and his two passengers.

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But what he doesn't realise is that this camera in the truck's cabin

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has recorded the whole episode.

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And as final proof it's a scam,

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it shows the supposedly injured trio

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getting out of the car as fresh as daisies.

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For this and other fraudulent claims,

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the driver is sentenced to 12 months in prison

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and this crash-for-cash conman

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has been taken off the road for real.

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They say that lightning doesn't strike twice

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but unfortunately when it comes to burglaries, that isn't the case.

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Thieves can repeatedly hit the same target.

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And it's not just homes -

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business owners can also be victims of repeat crime.

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A cold-hearted criminal steals from a centre

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for adults with learning difficulties. Not once, but twice.

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It was callous for somebody to take things

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from the guys who most needed them.

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Ilminster is a town in rural South-West Somerset.

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On the high street, Jane runs a unique business,

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a cafe and sweet shop combined with a training centre

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for adults with learning difficulties.

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Can you show Amy how to do this?

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Jane started the centre seven years ago.

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She wanted to improve the lives of people like her own daughter.

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Amy has severe learning difficulties.

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What I was aware of is that when she left college,

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there was nothing out there

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other than pretty uninspirational day services.

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Alice doesn't need any help from me, do you, Alice?

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-No, I don't.

-No, you're better than me, aren't you?

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Jane was running a petrol station at the time

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and sold it to fund her dream

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of opening a day centre with a difference.

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It's blossomed into a place where adults with learning difficulties

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can socialise and train in new skills,

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including computing, catering and making gifts to sell in the shop.

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This is for table ten.

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We are training them for work outside here.

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Even if it isn't work, it's about taking an active part in life.

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That's what they do. And love it and get a huge sense of achievement

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out of what they do.

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Chris has worked for Jane since he was 18 years old.

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I never really knew what I was taking on at the time.

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It is very rewarding.

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And the gang that we have here are fantastic.

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I wouldn't want to work anywhere else.

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But when one week Jane goes on holiday...

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Chris has to deal with an unexpected crisis.

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It's nearly 2am on a Monday morning. The centre is closed.

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But its CCTV cameras are switched on.

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And they pick out the chilling sight of this intruder.

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He's covered in a sheet to protect his identity.

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He turns on the light in the main office

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and then spends the next eight minutes

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rummaging around the place...

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..before running back out.

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Their visit from a thief in the night

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doesn't come to light until a few days later when Chris is cashing up

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and realises over £250 is missing.

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That was when my stomach sort of sank and I thought,

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maybe we had a break-in.

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There's no sign of a forced entry

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so Chris decides to check the past week's CCTV recordings

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for any clues as to what happened.

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I went back, fast-forwarded right the way through

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and then on the Sunday night, I saw the ghostly figure on the CCTV.

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Chris is upset by what he sees

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and by the lack of concern shown by the thief for the centre's work.

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It's a very small town.

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Everyone knows who we are in the town and what we do here,

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so to come into here when they know the job we do here

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and the people that we help...

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He's taken the money which would then slow up us using that

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for other projects. It's...

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It's just not a nice feeling in your stomach, really.

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Chris phones the police and then has to call Jane on her holiday

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with the bad news.

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When Chris called me,

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I think the overwhelming sense was of huge disappointment and sadness.

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Police take the video away.

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But with the thief's face covered and no forensic evidence,

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hopes aren't high that he can be caught.

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And Chris is worried.

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The intruder seems able to get in and out like a ghost without trace.

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What if he comes back?

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There's only two doors.

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There's no broken glass, there's no broken locks.

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And you're just wondering if and when it's going to happen again.

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Chris comes up with a clever plan

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to prevent the thief covering his tracks, if he does decide to return.

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You always see these CSI programmes

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where they can catch people through footprints or whatnot,

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so we thought, we'll put some flour on a couple of steps,

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which he'd have to go over to get into the building.

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Chris was right to be worried.

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At 5am the following Sunday morning,

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the thief breaks into the centre again.

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This time, he's wearing a hoodie

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and carrying a backpack to fill with loot.

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Later that day, Chris calls in the centre and has his weekend spoiled.

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On the Sunday night, I'm walking past and I think, well,

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I'll just pop in and check everything is OK.

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I can see straightaway that the back door is bent and buckled.

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Inside, it's devastation.

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Doors and drawers had all been opened.

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The till and the jars of sweets had all been pulled out.

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Every time you enter another room, it just got worse and worse.

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An expensive games console and other items had been stolen

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from the computer room.

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You just feel awful.

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But this time, at least the thief hasn't vanished without a trace.

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As I go up the steps, I can see footprints straightaway in the flour.

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And the security cameras also provide vital evidence.

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As you can see from the CCTV, it's daylight.

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He's a lot more confident.

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But the thief is about to make a bad error.

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Getting ready to leave...

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And he glances up at the camera and we thought, "got you now".

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It's a lucky break.

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The thief's image is sent round police stations

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throughout the county.

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A week later, an officer in nearby Yeovil recognises him.

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The man is arrested and he admits to the burglaries.

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And Chris is pleased to hear the footprints he captured in the flour

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were useful for the forensic team.

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I was told by an officer that was used to identify the person that had

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broken in, so it must have helped somewhere along the line.

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The burglar's arrest also means a happier return from holiday for Jane.

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I was so pleased.

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I'm not sure that he ever understood

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the effect he was having on the people here but I did hope

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that when he went to court that would...

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Somebody would drum that home to him.

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The 36-year-old thief was sentenced

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to 11 months in prison for the burglaries.

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He was able to get in because the centre's back door

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had a faulty locking mechanism. It's since been replaced,

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together with other security measures.

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And much to Chris and James relief, the centre is now back on its feet.

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Having Sweet Surprise has been both the hardest thing I've ever done

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in my life, but also the most rewarding.

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We'll keep going, we'll keep seeing the guys who come here grow

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and hopefully the future for Sweet Surprise is onwards and upwards.

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More than one in ten burglaries

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happen at an address that's been burgled before.

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So if somebody is a victim of crime,

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what can they do to reduce the chance of it happening again?

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If you have been the victim of burglary,

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they'd have got in a particular way.

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So one of the things to do

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is to make sure they can't come in that way again.

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So that means better locks or changing the layout of your store,

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for example, all of which will put barriers in the way of them actually

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being able to repeat. Because they'd have seen that as a success.

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Have all your keys accounted for. Have they found a spare key

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they might have been able to use to come back and steal again?

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Don't advertise the fact that you've replaced all of the items

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that you've had stolen by buying new TVs,

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laptops and tablets and leaving all the packaging outside,

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making it obvious to anybody walking past.

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If you have been a victim of crime,

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then use your local police force crime prevention service.

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They can come out to your house, do a crime prevention survey,

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which will indicate the weak spots in your house,

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and obviously eliminate you becoming a victim of crime again.

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In Greater Manchester, a gang of robbers are on a rampage.

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In the last month, as well as the ram-raid on Krishan's store we saw earlier,

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they've stormed into four other shops.

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And Sandra and Candice were to be the next people to suffer

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at the hands of this gang.

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They work together at the same supermarket and have been

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close for many years, as Sandra was friends with Candice's mum.

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My mum passed away the last year of school.

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So seeing Sandra and then working with her

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is just having that little bit of bond

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and that I know I can trust her and if I need her, she's there.

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She sees me as a second mum.

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And I see her as a daughter.

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I know she's always there for me and she'll look after me.

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And she's good. She is.

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And Candice desperately needs Sandra's help when their shop comes under attack.

0:19:350:19:41

It's a Friday night in October, nearly 10pm.

0:19:460:19:50

Candice and Sandra are the only two working at the store.

0:19:500:19:53

Candice has recently found out she's pregnant with her first child.

0:19:540:19:59

I was really itching to tell Sandra about me being pregnant

0:19:590:20:02

but through the shift, I went no, I'd better not.

0:20:020:20:05

-And wait.

-I was on a late.

0:20:060:20:09

And Candice was on a late.

0:20:090:20:11

And everything was fine.

0:20:130:20:15

But it soon won't be.

0:20:150:20:17

The gang are coming.

0:20:170:20:19

All of a sudden, they came in.

0:20:190:20:22

And all we saw was balaclavas and Candice, she was screaming.

0:20:230:20:29

As usual, two of the gang start emptying cigarettes

0:20:300:20:33

into a builder's bag.

0:20:330:20:35

The third shouts at Sandra.

0:20:350:20:37

"Open the tills."

0:20:370:20:39

And I said, no.

0:20:390:20:41

I'm not opening the tills.

0:20:410:20:43

If you want money, go and work for it.

0:20:430:20:46

The gang member then uses a crowbar to try to force the till open.

0:20:470:20:52

I just stood there. I was shaking.

0:20:520:20:55

But I didn't want to show it.

0:20:550:20:57

But Candice is boxed in by the robbers

0:20:570:20:59

as they smash up the shop around her. She's terrified.

0:20:590:21:03

I was stuck. They could have hit me in the stomach.

0:21:040:21:08

It's the most horriblest thing in the world.

0:21:080:21:11

Thinking that they could have hurt my unborn child was horrendous.

0:21:110:21:16

And that's when I screamed out.

0:21:160:21:18

She said, "don't touch me - I'm pregnant."

0:21:180:21:22

I didn't know at the time.

0:21:220:21:24

And went straight to Candice.

0:21:240:21:26

As she goes to Candice,

0:21:270:21:29

Sandra even bravely pushes one of the robbers aside.

0:21:290:21:33

And I'm hugging her and I'm trying to really calm her down.

0:21:330:21:37

She was just sobbing her heart out.

0:21:370:21:40

And all she was saying was, I don't want them to hurt my baby.

0:21:400:21:45

I was just saying, I will stay with you, I won't leave you.

0:21:460:21:50

And I wouldn't let her go.

0:21:500:21:52

I just said to them, leave her alone.

0:21:520:21:56

And then she took my hand and she grabbed me and took me away.

0:21:570:22:02

And that's like a mother's love.

0:22:030:22:05

You know?

0:22:050:22:06

Moments later, the robbers finally leave.

0:22:070:22:11

And it was just over with. It was...

0:22:110:22:13

It was good for them to just go, basically.

0:22:150:22:18

An ambulance takes Candice to the hospital straightaway for a check.

0:22:190:22:24

Thankfully, her baby is found to be OK.

0:22:240:22:26

As Candice and Sandra are getting over their ordeal,

0:22:280:22:32

over the following months, the number of robberies escalates.

0:22:320:22:35

And more shop workers are terrorised by the gang.

0:22:350:22:38

Detective Inspector Robert Cousen's team, including officer Roy Storey,

0:22:410:22:45

are trying to track them down.

0:22:450:22:47

But it's not easy.

0:22:470:22:49

These crimes were happening every couple of days

0:22:490:22:51

and on some occasions, there was more than one in one day.

0:22:510:22:54

There's very little forensic evidence at the scene,

0:22:540:22:57

so what we have to do is find evidence from other sources.

0:22:570:23:00

We get intelligence from people, from the criminal world,

0:23:000:23:02

we get intelligence from members of the public.

0:23:020:23:06

And based on information they receive,

0:23:060:23:08

the police identify some prime suspects

0:23:080:23:11

they believe could be part of the gang.

0:23:110:23:14

We checked their previous offending history and that confirmed that they

0:23:140:23:18

were capable of using violence.

0:23:180:23:21

CCTV gathered from the building where one of the suspects lives

0:23:210:23:25

shows four men leaving just before a robbery was committed by offenders

0:23:250:23:29

dressed in similar clothes.

0:23:290:23:31

Shortly after, two of them returned to the same building.

0:23:320:23:35

I want to take them off the streets,

0:23:360:23:38

but I want to make sure that if I'm taking them off the streets,

0:23:380:23:40

that I'm doing it with evidence to convict them.

0:23:400:23:43

So the police start a round-the- clock surveillance operation

0:23:440:23:48

with undercover officers following the suspects.

0:23:480:23:52

Their behaviour is instantly suspicious.

0:23:520:23:55

They seem to be driving without any aim. They are not going from A to B.

0:23:550:23:58

They are just driving round.

0:23:580:24:00

They'll stop and look at supermarkets and potential targets and so on.

0:24:000:24:03

A couple of days into the operation,

0:24:030:24:06

officers see three of the suspects heading towards their car

0:24:060:24:09

with one carrying a plank of wood...

0:24:090:24:11

..similar to this one used to threaten people in an earlier robbery.

0:24:120:24:17

And that's not all.

0:24:170:24:19

In their previous raids,

0:24:190:24:21

the gang used a builder's sack to carry away the loot.

0:24:210:24:24

One of them goes back to the address and then comes out.

0:24:240:24:26

You see he is carrying a bin bag there.

0:24:260:24:29

And we believe inside that bin bag was a builder's sack.

0:24:290:24:31

So we are really on high alert, then,

0:24:310:24:34

expecting them to commit an offence.

0:24:340:24:36

The suspects are totally unaware they are being watched.

0:24:360:24:40

And soon, the surveillance team spot three of them apparently en route

0:24:400:24:44

to another robbery. They follow them and call in reinforcements.

0:24:440:24:49

Their plan - to catch the robbers red-handed.

0:24:490:24:52

A few minutes later,

0:24:540:24:56

a camera on an unmarked police car

0:24:560:24:57

shows the suspects parked outside their likely target,

0:24:570:25:01

a supermarket.

0:25:010:25:03

We saw them putting their hoods up.

0:25:030:25:05

They were in all dark clothing, and one of them put a balaclava on.

0:25:050:25:08

So at this point, we know something is going to happen.

0:25:080:25:10

The unmarked police cars manoeuvre into position, ready for action.

0:25:100:25:15

Back at the station, it's Robert's call what happens next.

0:25:150:25:18

I made the decision that these people would be arrested

0:25:200:25:23

before they got to the supermarket.

0:25:230:25:25

I couldn't put people at risk inside that supermarket.

0:25:250:25:28

Police officers in four unmarked vehicles

0:25:300:25:32

block the robbers' car so they can't escape.

0:25:320:25:35

One of the suspects makes a run for it, pursued by an officer.

0:25:400:25:44

The robbers' car attempts to reverse out but another police car

0:25:440:25:48

brings it crashing to a standstill.

0:25:480:25:50

A second robber tries to run

0:25:530:25:55

but is wrestled to the ground outside the supermarket door.

0:25:550:26:01

Within a minute, all three robbers have been arrested.

0:26:010:26:04

In the boot, police find two planks of wood and a large builder's bag,

0:26:060:26:10

ready to be filled with stolen loot.

0:26:100:26:13

You see there, there's a house brick inside the vehicle.

0:26:130:26:17

We knew that they use them as weapons quite often.

0:26:170:26:19

See some of the suspects there, in handcuffs.

0:26:210:26:23

You can see how arrogant they are.

0:26:230:26:26

Putting their fingers up at the camera.

0:26:260:26:29

Laughing, smirking.

0:26:290:26:31

A robber boasts he'll do it again when he's released from jail.

0:26:310:26:34

They are pretending they are not bothered but I'm sure they're absolutely devastated.

0:26:380:26:42

They know where they're going and they know what they've been doing.

0:26:420:26:44

They know they're going to prison for a long time.

0:26:440:26:46

After raiding the suspects' houses,

0:26:460:26:48

police find clothing that has been used over the series of robberies

0:26:480:26:52

and seizing their phones,

0:26:520:26:54

they find pictures connecting them

0:26:540:26:55

with the stolen cars that were used as getaway vehicles.

0:26:550:26:58

Three more suspects are arrested and in the end,

0:27:000:27:02

six people aged 17 to 32 are charged

0:27:020:27:05

with conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to commit burglary.

0:27:050:27:10

In court, all six received lengthy sentences,

0:27:140:27:17

totalling more than 45 years in prison.

0:27:170:27:21

The three men arrested outside the supermarket

0:27:210:27:23

were sent down for nine and a half years each.

0:27:230:27:26

It was excellent work, to bring these people to justice,

0:27:310:27:34

and then for them to get substantial sentences.

0:27:340:27:36

It's a really good result.

0:27:360:27:38

In the time since,

0:27:380:27:40

Candice and Sandra have both got over their frightening experience

0:27:400:27:44

and Candice has had a boisterous baby boy.

0:27:440:27:47

He's a monkey. He just wants to play all the time.

0:27:480:27:52

Yeah, I'm really lucky to have him.

0:27:520:27:54

I'm really lucky to have him.

0:27:540:27:56

Do you want to draw Mummy?

0:27:560:27:58

We call Sandra "Auntie Sandra".

0:27:580:28:01

You know I'll always be there for you.

0:28:010:28:04

-Oh, I know that.

-Yeah.

0:28:040:28:06

-Yeah.

-I know.

-All right.

0:28:060:28:08

-Sloppy sod.

-I know.

0:28:080:28:09

That's all for today.

0:28:160:28:18

Join us next time to see some other villains

0:28:180:28:20

who've been caught red-handed.

0:28:200:28:22

A pregnant shop assistant has a terrifying moment in a supermarket when she comes face to face with a ruthless gang of robbers. And a centre for adults with learning disabilities is haunted by a mysterious figure in the night.