14/08/2014 12:50 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Intruders Threatened To Slice Mum's Unborn Baby From Stomach And Slit Children's Throats

Intruders threatened to slice mum's unborn baby from stomach and slit other children's throats South Yorkshire Police

A judge has said a family's ordeal at the hands of three masked robbers was 'very, very serious' and 'truly shocking'.

Heavily pregnant Clare Foster and her husband Steven were at home in Sheffield with their 15-year-old daughter, nine-year-old son and the family dog when three armed intruders - Ajay Rowding, Kallum Flowers and another man - broke in and held them hostage.

The intruders told Mrs Foster they were going to cut her unborn baby from her stomach, and slit the throats of her two children.

Intruders threatened to slice mum's unborn baby from stomach and slit other children's throats

Armed with a crowbar and a bread knife, the gang kept the family hostage for almost an hour as they ransacked their home, while threatening to kill the family's dog, and cut off the children's fingers.

"The things that were said, and the threats that were issued, were utterly horrific, chilling threats, which will not, I am sure, fade from the memories of the victims for many years," Judge Peter Kelson QC told Sheffield Crown Court, adding: "It's difficult to conceive how utterly terrifying it must have been."

The court heard that there was a drugs link to the robbery, and that Mr and Mrs Foster had cannabis plants growing in their home, prompting Judge Kelson to say that the incident highlighted the dangers of the drug trade.

"The police recognise that in South Yorkshire growing cannabis in houses is carrying in its wake a large amount of serious organised crime," he said. "One of these is the infliction of serious violence, or the threat of it, to growers of cannabis."

Mark McKone, prosecuting, said that pregnant Mrs Foster had been terrified her children would be killed or harmed by the trio. He said the intruders stole hydroponics equipment used to grow cannabis, as well as a Hyundai car, a Transit van, two mobile phones, four flat screen TVs, cash, jewellery, clothing and a games console, worth a total of £27,960.

The men were tracked down when police found the stolen van parked up with its engine running and Flowers' partner's brother, Matthew Fothergill, asleep inside.

Fothergill, aged 31, admitted handling stolen goods and was jailed for three years in March.

Rowding and Flowers, both aged 23, both pleaded guilty to robbery and were jailed for 12 years each.

The Sheffield Star reports that as they were sent down, one of the gang threw a cup of water from the dock, soaking the judge.