There are some new contenders for the world's most stupid criminals. A gang of violent armed robbers were caught out... by a rather fetching pair of cartoon pyjama bottoms.
The thoughtless thugs spectacularly failed to cover their tracks following a series of incriminating “selfies” and a mobile phone chat group – ingeniously named “armed robbers”.
The men took several cringe-worthy pictures of themselves, including one of a gang member wearing the same bright blue pyjama trousers printed with cartoon sheep that he had worn on one of their raids and another of the men wearing a balaclava and posing with a handgun, Kent Police said.
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Terry Sullivan, 24, Thomas Balderston, 24, and Christopher Heath, 31, all of Ernest Road, Chatham, and Christopher Aldred, 23, of Kellaway Road, Chatham, were convicted at Maidstone Crown Court yesterday.
The jury could not make a decision regarding Daniel Jarrett, 24, of Maida Road, Chatham, police said. They said a decision on a retrial has not yet been made.
The gang terrified staff by wearing balaclavas, brandishing knives and in some instances a handgun, stealing money from the safe and taking cigarettes, scratch cards and stamps between April and June last year, a police spokesman said.
They committed seven armed robberies targeting newsagents in Eastbourne, East Sussex, and in Biggin Hill, Larkfield, Dover, Gravesend and Chatham, Kent.
They also attacked a house in Boston, Lincolnshire, with the intention of stealing from the owner but she fought them off and they fled the scene, the spokesman said.
He continued: "Despite trying to avoid detection some of the men could not keep their actions to themselves, creating a Blackberry Messenger group named armed robbers and taking numerous 'selfies', one of which showed them posing with a handgun."
Detectives swooped on Sullivan's home and after examining one of his mobile phones, officers found images of him posing in the same bright blue pyjama bottoms, covered with pictures of cartoon sheep, which had been worn by a suspect in one of the robberies.
Officers from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate arrested the men who were charged with possessing a firearm with the intention of committing an offence and conspiracy to rob.
Heath and Sullivan admitted their guilt at Maidstone Crown Court and Balderston and Aldred were found guilty following a trial, police said.
Detective sergeant Andy Nicoll said: "The crimes carried out by these four men were violent and often terrified the victims. "The offenders were forceful, threatening and brazen and left the staff in those shops feeling that if they did not comply, then serious harm would come to them.
"Despite showing a level of forensic awareness some of the men became sloppy, taking selfies on their mobile phones.
"Whether this was narcissistic or not, it became their downfall and before long there was a wealth of unquestionable evidence stacking up against them. The men's desire to parade themselves as gangsters ultimately led them to jail."
The men will be sentenced at the beginning of November.