A VICIOUS gang of chainsaw-wielding thugs who targeted a Batley jewellers have been jailed for a total of 57 years.
The quartet struck at Assad Jewellers in Purlwell Lane in March last year, in between similar heists in Huddersfield and Wakefield.
Steven Barker, John Morrison, Patrick Lowther and Garner Smith denied conspiracy to rob but were convicted at Leeds Crown Court.
The hearing was told they made off with gems worth about £250,000 from the raids, which were all on Asian jewellers.
In the Batley incident they were foiled and fled empty-handed after trying to smash a VW Transporter through the door.
They were armed with pieces of wood and a large sword. The owners kept them out, but a staff member had his arm slashed and ended up in hospital.
Raids in Huddersfield and Wakefield netted them items worth £100,000 and £150,000 respectively, plus £4,000 in cash.
The gang wore balaclavas, used weapons including pick-axe handles and hammers and had getaway cars with crudely blacked-out windows.
Jewellery was funnelled from trays and safes into builders’ bags. A chainsaw was also brandished to frighten off passers-by.
Barker, Lowther, and Smith were found unanimously guilty by a jury and sentenced to 16 years each.
Morrison, who lived on a caravan site in Gildersome, was deemed less involved than the others, but was found guilty by an 11-1 majority and jailed for nine years.
The wife of the 40-year-old father-of-three died during the case. After the verdict but before sentencing he was taken down from the dock protesting his innocence.
Barker, 35, and Smith, 33, both of Bradford, and Lowther, of Rothwell, were described as the plot’s main architects.
Judge Tom Bayless QC said: “The target of this conspiracy was a number of Asian jewellery shops in the area of West Yorkshire.
“The distinction between such shops and High Street jewellers is they are often in quiet residential areas and often occupied by lone proprietors.
“In other words they presented a soft target. But these yield valuable rewards for men like you.”
Det Insp Paul Harrison, of West Yorkshire Police, said after sentencing: “The gang planned each job meticulously.
“They travelled throughout the county identifying vulnerable jewellers and then used excessive force to get what they wanted.”