Four men have been found guilty of numerous armed robberies following a Flying Squad investigation.
Appearing at Kingston Crown Court on Thursday, 23 January, two defendants were found guilty of seven robberies and attempted robberies across London and Surrey in which an imitation firearm was used to target convenience stores.
Kristopher James-Merrill, 20 , of Lyham Road, SW2 and Marlon Wright, 25 of Grove Road, Mitcham, were found guilty by a jury, following an eight-day trial.
They were found not guilty in relation to charges of possessing the imitation firearm.
James-Merrill was a serving soldier in the Grenadier Guards.
Two other soldiers from the Grenadier Guards pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing; Dillon Sharpe, 23 , of Lovelace Road, SE21 and Elnur Bracegirdle, 21 of Chapel Lane, Preston, Lancashire both pleaded guilty on 12 February 2019.
Sharpe pleaded guilty to 12 robberies, 11 counts of possessing a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and one count of possessing a prohibited weapon (stun gun).
Bracegirdle pleaded to one count of robbery and one count of possessing a bladed article in public place (knife).
All four defendants will be sentenced on a date to be confirmed.
Detective Sergeant Jamie Witts, from the Met’s Flying Squad, said: “This case is both shocking and somewhat disheartening in that these men who were in positions of responsibility and trust – three of whom have served their country in the armed forces – resorted to targeting hardworking shopkeepers late at night.
“Officers from the Met’s Flying Squad will continue to bear down on anyone committing armed or violent robberies in the Capital and bring them to justice.”
Around 12:55pm on 10 January 2019, two men entered a convenience store on Brixton Hill, SW2. Both wore dark clothing.
The shorter man, Sharpe, came to the side of the counter and stood in front of the victim while Bracegirdle remained near the door. Sharpe was in possession of a stun gun which he activated causing visible sparking.
As the victim looked at the taller man at the door, he could see he was in possession of a knife. Sharpe shouted “OPEN THE TILL”.
Aware of what was taking place and concerned for his safety, he did as he was told. He opened the till and stepped back. Sharpe then began filling a blue carrier bag with the cash from the till which included notes and coins.
Both suspects fled the scene and the victim immediately called police.
Officers headed in the direction of the robbery and whilst on their way, they saw two men matching the description of the suspects.
Bracegirdle was detained shortly before Sharpe – who was still wearing the balaclava he used during the robbery – was apprehended. Also in his possession was the blue bag with a large amount of coins, gloves and the stun gun.
They were taken into custody where Sharpe was identified as being wanted for an earlier series of robberies involving a firearm for which he was due to be arrested.
Sharpe had committed the following offences in February:
1. An attempted robbery of a convenience store on Norwood Road at 20:15hrs on 9 February 2018;
2. A robbery of a convenience store on Upper Tulse Hill at 5.45pm on 10 February 2018;
3. A robbery of a newsagent on Leigham Vale at 8.38pm on 12 February 2018;
4. An attempted robbery of a newsagent on Tulse Hill at 8.55pm on 12 February.
He was suspected of 11 offences in total, committing four on his own in February and seven in July in company with accomplices James-Merrill and Wright.
The July (2018) offences were as follows:
5. A robbery on Brighton Road, South Croydon at 23:01hrs on 24 July;
6. Attempted robbery on Stafford Road, Wallington at 11.30pm on 24 July;
7. A robbery on Merton High Street at 11.55pm on 24 July;
8. A robbery on Streatham Vale at 12.39am on 25 July;
9. Attempted robbery on Central Avenue, West Molesey at 10.37pm on 26 July;
10. Attempted robbery on Cambridge Road, Kingston at 11:20pm on 26 July;
11. Attempted robbery on Cambridge Road, Kingston 11:25pm on 26 July.
All the July offences involved the same firearm and the robber (Sharpe) was wearing the same blue hooded Adidas top with large logo on the chest.
Officers attempted to arrest James-Merrill at his barracks, but he was not there. Knowing that he was wanted, he handed himself into police at Wandsworth police station later on 10 January 2019.
A search of his home address on Lyham Road, SW2, was conducted and in his bedroom was a distinctive imitation firearm identical to the one used in the offences. The magazine from the firearm was missing which tied in with one being dropped by the robber at the offence in Brighton Road on the 24 July 2019. DNA from the victim of that offence was found on the firearm.
Wright was subsequently identified having entered two of the venues and walking past a third prior to the robbery taking place and the prosecutor case outlined his role in reconnaissance and acting as a point of contact for Sharpe to facilitate his escape. It was James-Merrill who used his vehicle to drive Sharpe to and from the offences and also entered one of the venues prior to the robbery.