The getaway driver for a gang who carried out a terrifying armed raid on a top city jewellery store in broad daylight has been jailed for eight years.
A jury found Michael Hood guilty of robbing Hamilton & Inches in George Street of watches and gem-studded jewellery with a wholesale value of £580,000 in June last year.
Hood, 32, a father of one from Royston Mains, shook his head in disbelief as the jury at the High Court in Livingston, West Lothian, returned the majority verdict.
Sentencing Hood to eight years in prison, Judge Lord Glennie told him he’d been convicted of a “very serious” offence.
He said: “This was an armed raid in broad daylight. You snatched a very valuable collection of watches and jewellery from one of the principal shopping streets in Edinburgh.
“The gang, of which it has been found you formed a part, armed with machetes and axes clearly terrorized the people within the shop.
“Your role was clearly that of the getaway driver although, as part of the gang, you bear equal responsibility in law.
“In sentencing you I think I must take account of your lesser role in the affair.”
During the trial the jury was shown CCTV footage of the armed robbers smashing display cabinets and emptying the contents of displays into rucksacks in the professional-looking 90-second operation.
The three men – wearing identical balaclavas and boiler suits – took rings, necklaces and highly-collectible Patek Phillippe timepieces with a cost price of nearly £580,000.
The trio, armed with machetes and axes ordered staff to lie on the floor before smashing their way through armoured glass display cabinets to grab fistfuls of valuables.
The guilty verdict came despite fierce criticism of the tactics used by elite Scottish detectives investigating the £1.3m jewel heist.
Mark Stewart QC said the evidence against his client had been “tainted” and “polluted” by senior officers from Police Scotland’s Serious Crime Squad and compared their tactics to the actions of police cops in the fictional 70s TV series The Sweeney.
He told the jury that the Senior Investigating Officer – Detective Inspector Carol Craig – and her team had been “totally unprofessional” in the way they handled the investigation and described the writing up of police notebooks retrospectively as “shambolic and deceitful”.
He urged the jury to treat eye-witness about the identity of the getaway driver with caution, saying surveyor Alistair Walker had told police immediately after the robbery that the raiders were all white and he couldn’t identify any of them again.
But when cops went to his home in Aberdeen with 13 pictures of black or mixed race suspects – two of them of Hood – they told him they believed a foreigner was responsible and he picked out the accused.
Mr Stewart reminded the jury of evidence that DI Craig had taken Hood out of police custody and quizzed him in a Homebase car park without informing his lawyer and without keeping a record of the conversation.
He said: “It was the cops who did a bit of DIY that day. We don’t know what they were talking about for two hours but they wanted information.
“None of it paints this case in a very good image. Two and a half hours totally off the book – desperate measures to try and sort something out of the mess they’ve got themselves into in this case.”
He said the only reliable evidence linking Hood to the two getaway cars used by the robbers – who wore balaclavas, boiler suits and gloves and spoke with Manchester accents – was his former co-accused Kurtis Beech.
Evidence was agreed that Beech had admitted driving both cars to Edinburgh from Manchester and Hood, whose DNA was found on both vehicles, admitted he’d touched the cars while selling cannabis to Beech.
He commented: “We thought we’d got rid of these sort of activities by the Serious Crime Squad in films like the Sweeney and other TV series. They’re now laughed at. It is totally unprofessional.
“The police in this case have behaved in a way that demonstrates that from the top of this inquiry there was behaviour which pollutes every aspect of this case and renders the whole of this Crown case incredible and unreliable.
“Their behaviour has at the very least been questionable.”
The Sweeney, which aired in the 1970s, starred John Thaw as Flying Squad Detective Inspector Jack Regan, and Dennis Waterman as his sidekick Detective Sergeant George Carter.
The series showed cops displaying a disregard for authority, rules and the “system”, as long the job got done.
The jury took just one and a half hours to reach their verdict