Northfleet robbers jailed after offender inadvertently hands over stolen phone to police officer

Screenshot at



Robbers who advertised a stolen phone for sale on social media, only for it to be collected in person by a Kent Police sergeant, have been jailed for close to 12 years between them.


Abid Rafiq and Paul Appleford targeted the victim in Northfleet High Street in March 2020 before an unsuspecting Appleford handed it over to the police officer a day later.


Both men were sentenced a Woolwich Crown Court on Thursday 15 July 2021.




The offence took place in the High Street at around 8.15pm on 28 March.


The victim, who was 19 at the time, feared he was being followed by the men and picked up his pace in an attempt to avoid them.


Rafiq caught up with him, grabbed the front of his coat and asked ‘what have you got?’


Appleford then appeared, and the two offenders escorted the victim to a cash machine in Stonebridge Road before demanding him to withdraw £200.


When the offenders realised the victim did not have the funds to make the withdrawal, Rafiq reached into his coat pocket and stole his mobile phone. The victim then ran away.


Online advertisement


The next day, the victim used an online feature to track his phone to the Hampton Crescent area of Gravesend. Additional checks on social media showed the handset was being advertised for sale for £200.


After Kent Police was notified that the seller had agreed to sell it to one of the victim’s relatives, a detective from North Kent CID went to the address where the purchase was supposed to take place.


As Appleford met who he thought was the buyer, he was arrested.


A review of CCTV and enquiries by investigators into Appleford’s regular associates lead to the arrest of Rafiq later the same day. Both men have been remanded in custody since being charged.


Perverting the course of justice


While in prison, Paul Appleford conspired with his brother, Mark Appleford, to put the victim of the robbery under pressure to drop the case.


This resulted in the latter calling the victim and offering him £2,000 in exchange for not supporting a prosecution, however the request was refused.


Detectives proved the call had been made from a phone number registered to Mark Appleford.


Sentences imposed


  • Rafiq, 38, of Hampton Crescent, Gravesend, admitted robbery and was sentenced to five years and seven months in prison.
  • Paul Appleford, 35, of Brunswick Walk, Gravesend, admitted robbery and perverting the course of justice. He was jailed for six years.
  • Mark Appleford, 28, of Hampton Crescent, Gravesend, admitted perverting the course of justice and received a six month prison sentence.

Prolonged ordeal


Detective Constable Jess Summers, Kent Police’s investigating officer for the case, said: ‘The victim of this crime was subjected to a prolonged ordeal and would have had every reason to believe they were going to be seriously assaulted if they did not comply with the offender’s requests.


‘Both men’s willingness to use violence shows them to be a considerable danger to the public and I am pleased that a prison sentence has been imposed.’