Prolific armed robber’s crime spree ends in jail term

A PROLIFIC armed robber from Harold Hill who stole thousands of pounds from travel agents and bookmakers was jailed for eight-and-a-half years on Monday

Matthew Broomfield, 27, terrified female staff by brandishing a fake handgun in a series of raids in Havering, east London and Essex.

In one raid on a bookmaker he left the assistant manager tied up in a cupboard for over an hour.

Broomfield, of Chatteris Avenue, who had been on probation at the time of his first robbery, netted a total of �30,000 in six raids before being caught in May this year.

The Old Bailey heard he planned the attacks by visiting the shops as a customer beforehand.

“He used the technique of going to premises with an innocent enquiry about whatever services the shop was providing,” said prosecutor Mr Christopher Hehir, “giving him chance to check the lie of the land.

“He made enquires about booking a honeymoon and that was to become a technique he employed repeatedly.”

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On October 27 last year armed with a knife he walked into a Coral Bookmakers, in Station Way, Hornchurch, at 8.30am.

He demanded money from manager Paul MacArthur, who told him the safe was on a time delay and would only open at 10.30am.

Broomfield then bound Mr MacArthur’s hands and feet with cable ties and locked him in a cupboard.

“He apologised and said his son was ill and he needed money for medical treatment,” said Mr Hehir.

“He said he would be back later. He left a note on the window of the premises saying the shop would not be open until later due to technical difficulties.”

Mr MacArthur was rescued after over an hour when the area manager discovered the shop was closed.

Four weeks later on November 21 Broomfield got away with �2,265 from Pridmore bookmakers in Main Road, Romford.

He pulled out a black handgun and ordered manager Tim Dennis to sit on the floor of the toilet until he had left with the cash.

Next on December 4, 2009, he visited the First Choice travel agent in St Mary’s Lane, Upminster, at 12pm.“He made enquires about booking a honeymoon and then left,” said Mr Hehir.

Broomfield returned at 4.15pm, pulled out a black handgun and forced the two female members of staff into the bureau de change.

“He said he wouldn’t harm them and claimed he was a nice person. He agreed not to tie them up but both of them were crying and shaking in fear,” said Mr Hehir.

He then escaped with �12,000 in cash and travellers cheques.

Broomfield continued his campaign with robberies at First Choice in East Street, Barking, on February 17 this year, Thomson Travel at the Baytree Centre, Brentwood, on April 6, and First Choice in High Road, Chadwell Heath, on May 19.

Two days later members of staff at the Thomson Travel branch in Dagenham recognised Broomfield from a photo circulated by police and he was arrested.

Broomfield pleaded guilty to six counts of robbery and three of possessing an imitation firearm with intent.

Judge Peter Rook told him: “These are all very serious offences as you well know.

“You would visit premises posing as a genuine customer then having ingratiated yourself with the staff you would subsequently return and rob the premises, on three occasions you had with you an imitation firearm.

“The staff were not to know it was an imitation and must have been greatly traumatised by your actions.

“Furthermore you were being supervised by probation at the time of the earlier robberies and had led those supervising you to believe that matters were going well and you had completed a Think First Programme.”

Detective Chief Inspector Ian Corner of the Metropolitan Police’s north-east Flying Squad said: “Broomfield thought nothing of using a firearm to influence his demands and terrify and intimidate people doing their jobs.”