Gang jailed following poker game robbery

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FIVE men involved in a robbery where poker players were threatened with machetes have been jailed.

A group of men had been playing poker at an address on Robin Crescent, Heysham, on Sunday, May 22, 2011, when they were targeted by the gang, who had been made aware of the game through their associates.

Brothers Jason and Richard Diprose attempted to get a taxi to the address, finally enlisting their friend Lee McDermott, who switched off the GPS device in his vehicle and took the men to Robin Crescent.

Shortly after 11.15pm, the homeowner answered a knock at his door and was confronted by a man holding a pizza box.

He was then sprayed in the eyes with a noxious substance.

The gang burst into the house wearing dark clothing, black balaclavas and black gloves.

A number of them were carrying machetes.

One of the men then went upstairs and threatened a female resident, who was dragged out of her bed.

Mobile phones and around £2,000 in cash were stolen before the gang made off.

Balaclavas were later found at the Austwick Road home of Neil Bradley.

Machetes were found under a shed at the home of Richard Diprose.

Harry Ralphs was picked out in an identity parade as the person who had squirted the homeowner with the liquid.

Appearing at Preston Crown Court, the men pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery.

Today, Jason Diprose, 26, formerly of Clare Road, Lancaster and currently HMP was jailed for five years.

This will run consecutively with a 16-year sentence he was given earlier this year for conspiracy to supply cannabis and cocaine.

Richard Diprose, 25, of Austwick Road, Lancaster, was jailed for eight years and six months.

Harry Ralphs, 21, of Dee Road, Lancaster, was jailed for seven years and eight months for the robbery.

Ralphs was also sentenced for two burglaries in May and September last year and had 43 other offences taken into consideration.

His total sentence was nine years and four months.

Lee McDermott, 26, of Haylot Square, Lancaster was jailed for five years and nine months.

Neil Bradley, 21, of Austwick Road, Lancaster, was jailed for seven years and eight months for the robbery.

Bradley was also given a consecutive sentence for possessing a shotgun and a bladed instrument, found in a holdall on Austwick Road in June last year.

His total sentence was nine years and six months.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Sergeant Colin Forsyth, Lancaster police, said: “Once the gang became aware that there was a large amount of cash in play at the poker game they came up with a plan to rob the victims.

“The following raid was a frightening experience for those who were at the house, particularly the young woman who was woken up by a masked man.”

He added: “The sentences that they have been given reflect the severity of their actions and the fact that they used violence, threats and intimidation while armed with weapons in order to plunder a quick source of cash.

“This is an organised gang who have caused numerous problems, not just on the Ryelands estate where they live but also across the city, and they are more than willing to use weapons and violence to carry out their criminality.

“The city’s streets are a safer place now that they are in prison and we hope that this will have a positive effect on the local community, particularly on the Ryelands estate.

“We are committed to tackling organised crime groups and putting them behind bars and ask that residents continue to support us by coming forward with any information they may have.”

The 30-year-old female victim of the robbery, said: “It was horrific to have men force their way into my home with machetes and balaclavas.

“It was a terrifying ordeal and it has had a great effect on me.

“I am relieved that these men are now behind bars as it means I can move on with my life.

“I have never had any dealings with the police before this and I would like to thank them for the help and the support they have given me both during the investigation and when the case came to court.”