Armed robber jailed

A STOWMARKET armed robber is under lock and key today after being caught by detectives hunting a gang responsible for dozens of hold-ups and ram raids.

A STOWMARKET armed robber is under lock and key today after being caught by detectives hunting a gang responsible for dozens of hold-ups and ram raids.

John Hayden, of Hill Rise, was sentenced to three-and-a half years in a young offender's institution after admitting to knifepoint robberies at Stowmarket's Wolsey Road post office and Haughley Co-op.

The 18-year-old also pleaded guilty at Chelmsford Crown Court to stealing a motor vehicle.

The case resulted from Operation Arctic, one of the biggest ever joint investigations by officers from Suffolk, Essex, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire into around 70 ram raids and armed robberies between last August and February this year.

After Hayden's sentencing detective chief inspector George Barr, head of the Bury St Edmunds-based investigation, said: "It is a good result due to the efforts of the officers investigating the matter."

Hayden pleaded guilty to Wolsey Road post office which occurred on March 7 this year.

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A balaclava-clad raider threatened the co-owner, David Clarke, with a knife and demanded money and Embassy cigarettes.

Mr Clarke's wife, Jean, who was upstairs at the time, heard the commotion and came down to investigate.

She challenged the robber who fled the store, heading towards Kingsmead Close, before leaving the area in a waiting car.

Hayden also pleaded guilty to a hold-up on February 26 at the Co-op store in Old Street, Haughley.

Two men wearing balaclavas and brandishing knives, one of which was described as a machete, stormed into the shop at 6.35pm ordering customers, including a young girl, to lie on the floor.

They then demanded money from the two women shop assistants. Cash was handed over from the till and the safe in the rear of the premises. Both men then fled.

Also sentenced with Hayden was Soloman Loveridge, of West Bergholt, Essex, who admitted robberies at two newsagents in Colchester in March this year. The 29-year-old was given a six-year prison term.

A total of 16 people have been arrested since Operation Arctic began. Seven have been convicted including two other Suffolk men, Alan Loveridge, 38, of Rede Way, Great Cornard, and Steven Allum, 19, also of Rede Way, Great Cornard, who were sentenced at Ipswich Crown Court in May.

Loveridge was jailed for two-and-a-half years for handling stolen goods, theft and motoring offences and Allum was given 22 months for a series of thefts and other related charges.

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