A gang of thieves on mopeds who carried out attacks by mounting pavements have been jailed for 18 years.
The gang carried out more than 100 robberies in a period of less than three weeks, often riding their vehicles onto pavements to attack pedestrians in a chilling reminder of recent terror attacks.
Between April 18 and May 5 this year, the gang of four males, travelling on two mopeds, robbed victims of their mobile phones and personal possessions across the boroughs of Camden, Westminster, Kensington and Chelsea and Islington.
Armed with weapons, the robbery suspects rode around the streets of London looking for victims carrying items of value, mainly mobile phones.
Once a victim was spotted, the mopeds would approach them and possessions - often mobile phones - would be snatched. As well as shocking victims by mounting pavements, the thieves would threaten their victims with hammers and metal bars.
On one occasion, the gang were spotted by an eagle-eyed, quick-minded photographer who took the opportunity to capture the criminals in action. The photographs were of high quality and were able to capture the distinct markings on the suspects' clothing such as logos and paint marks.
These images were passed to Westminster Crime Squad and also appeared in the media.
Making use of the distinguishing marks and distinctive mopeds, officers viewed hours of CCTV footage where the offences occurred and were able to map the route the suspects took.
Claude Parkinson, 18 and of Islington, was arrested on May 6 after he was identified by detectives from Westminster Crime Squad. The images that had been circulated showed one of the suspects had part of a finger nail missing and also a blemish on his nose - these matched up to Parkinson.
Over the next few days, further inquiries identified and led to the arrest of two other males, aged 15 and 16 and both from Islington.
During the search of the 15-year-old's Islington home, photographs and video footage were found showing the suspects with the same distinguishing marks and clothing. They were seen to be riding mopeds dangerously and doing wheelies down the road.
Following mobile phone analysis, officers were able to establish that the trio took a taxi to Tower Hamlets where they met a fourth man, 40-year-old Shamsul Chowdhury, and exchanged the stolen goods for cash.
On May 26, officers raided Chowdhury's home address and found the phone used to send and receive messages from the group. They also found 30 smartphones, several laptops, £3,000 in cash and a list of stolen phones which had been sold on.
Some of the seized stolen property was linked to two residential burglaries in Sutton, south London and a high-value warehouse burglary in Essex along with numerous moped-enabled robberies.
They also found a notebook in which Chowdhury had detailed items he had received. Between April 5 and May 17, Chowdhury logged the receipt of 327 items - the majority of these were mobile phones. Values were put next to them which totalled £52,150 - it has not been established if this was the price paid for the items or the money received for selling them on.
Chowdhury is believed to have shipped some of the phones to Bangladesh. Evidence presented by police included bulk text messages sent by Chowdhury to potential robbery suspects giving a price list of phone models and what he would pay. The prosecution claimed that by providing a ready market for stolen phones, Chowdhury was encouraging the offences.
At Southwark Crown Court, Parkinson was sentenced to five years and three months' imprisonment. The 16 and 15-year-old accomplices were each sentenced to four years and two monhs. All three had earlier pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robery.
Chowdhury, of Bethnal Green, had pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and was sentenced to four years and 10 months' imprisonment.
Detective Superintendent Jess Ruddell of Westminster Police said: "Police are working hard to keep the public safe and make the streets hostile territory for criminals who steal scooters, mopeds, motorbikes and use them to commit other crimes.
"These suspects have been responsible for a huge number of crimes in London and have put members of the public in danger when committing their offences.
"Criminals such as these rely on the unwariness of the public to snatch their phones while they make calls, so it is important that the public is aware of their surroundings at all times and protect their personal property, particularly when emerging from a train or underground station or anywhere where they might suddenly decide to take out and use their phone. Smartphones are very valuable to these criminals and they can snatch them in an instant.
"I would like to thank the members of the public and media who provided us with clips and footage of the gang as they carried out their crimes. The footage and witness accounts used helped to secure the convictions.
"I would also like to thank DC Martin Thomas and his colleagues at Westminster Crime Squad for their tireless work in ensuring these three criminals have been brought to justice."