On an early autumn evening in 2019, a family in the beautiful village of Warburton were locking up their home.
Lying on the border of Cheshire and Trafford, the sleepy hamlet is home to no more than 300 people.
Two of them – a nine-year-old boy and a girl, 13 – were already in bed.
Their parents were ready to settle down for the night when an ornamental bird bath was hurled through the French windows of their home.
At around 8.30pm on the night of September 16, 2019, the idyllic home was targeted by one of the most ruthless robbery gangs to have ever targeted the north west.
The men were responsible for 29 robberies in six months.
Four of them have now been handed life sentences.
Several masked men dressed in black entered the property before subjecting the family to an ordeal so horrific it has damaged them for life.
At Manchester Crown Court, the mother of the family revealed, in a harrowing victim impact statement, how robbers escaped with £60,000-worth of jewellery and watches; £2,000 in cash; and Mercedes.
She and her children were forced into a dark closet, where they overheard a robber speak to her partner.
He said: “If you don’t show us where the safe is, we will kill the rest of you, so no one’s gonna find out this happened.”
As the mother considered going to help her partner, her daughter told her: “No mum, don’t, they’re gonna kill you.”
In a recorded video played to the court, the woman said: “It was quite literally the worst night of my life.
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“Psychologically, this night has affected me and my children in every way. I lost trust in people.
“I used to be a very happy person.”
She has now been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and had therapy.
During the robbery, machetes were held to her children’s throats.
It has resulted in their daughter moving to live in America as she no longer feels safe in the property she used to call home.
The mother told the court: “Having to see their mum in such a distress, when a man put a machete to our throats and threatened to kill us, destroyed their feeling of safety.”
“This incident had a tremendous impact on my daughter.
“She was chased by a masked man with a machete up the stairs, and threatened that she would get hurt if she tried to reach for her phone.
“She is now scared of the darkness, the stairs, and people in general and for a while she was unable to go to the shower or brush her teeth alone.
“My children have not slept well for over a year after this incident.
“My daughter feels a lot of guilt that she froze and was not able to grab her phone and call the police.”
Her son was reading a comic when a masked man with a machete got him out of bed.
The woman says she now sleeps with a knife.
“This will affect us for the rest of our lives. I am now scared of the dark which is ridiculous,” she added.
“If the alarm goes off at night, which has happened a couple of times, we have gone into absolute panic mode and we don’t sleep for the rest of the night.
“They have no idea about the devastation they have caused to me and my family.”
She has also suffered from depression and has panic attacks.
The woman and her partner have spent £35,000 on a panic room and extra security, including 16 cameras installed in the house.
She said: “I thought after a few months I would be fine, but over a year-and-a-half and I am still feeling broken.
“I am not the same person I used to be. There are not enough words to describe what this night has done to me, my children and my partner.
“I would like to ask these men what has happened to them in their life before, in their childhood maybe, for them to turn to men that could do what they did to us and our children.
“This is not normal. People are not born evil like this. I hope they can realise what they have done.
Referring to her children, she added: “They have had the worst start to adult life because of this experience.
“They have destroyed not only our lives, but countless other families’ too.
“They should not be allowed to be free again. Normal people do not do things like this to other people.
“I will never feel safe again.
“These people are not good people. They will not change their ways if they do not get a big sentence.
Addressing members of the gang, she said: “I hope this will never again happen to another family.
“Today, for the first time, I have the power over you, because at the night of the attack you had the power over us, using a machete and crowbar to keep us quiet.”
The gang took several Co-ops for £48,000 and £15,000 from McColls.
In another shocking incident, a bureau de change in a branch of Sainsbury’s in Altrincham was robbed in broad daylight. Shoppers watched on in horror as £8,600-worth of currency was snatched.
Several shop workers told of the mental and physical toll of their ordeal.
One woman was working when the same robbery gang struck a second time.
A five-year-old boy who was in a shop with his mother during a robbery was left ‘traumatised’ and wet himself in fear at what he had witnessed.
A pub and a branch of Starbucks in Trafford were also targeted.
A month before the incident, the court heard how police officer Jason Hough also had a terrifying brush with members of the same gang.
He had just parked up his unmarked BMW in the village of Grappenhall in Cheshire.
His night duties included patrolling near shops after a spate of raids in the area.
Moments later, he saw three armed men run from the Co-op store on Knutsford Road.
They had terrorised staff inside and escaped with cash.
It was just after 10pm on August 26, 2019.
The officer decided to follow the gang – and did so for almost 11 miles to the Racecourse Estate in Sale at speeds of up to 80mph.
On three occasions, the silver Ford Focus getaway vehicle stopped suddenly in Partington and two masked rear passengers got out, running at the officer’s car with machetes.
The first two times, PC Hough reversed off. He said in a statement read in court at the trial of one of the gang, Daniel Adamson: “I knew numerous other patrols and armed officers were almost with me, so I continued to pursue the Focus.”
But the third time the gang screeched to a halt they upped the ante.
They were in the middle of a spree of 29 robberies between May and November 2019 and were pumped up.
The officer recalled: “For the third time, rounding another tight corner, the Focus came to a sudden stop. So much so that its emergency flashing braking lights came on.
“This time I had only managed to come to a stop several meters behind. The two rear balaclava’d occupants got out yet again, brandishing their machetes and sprinting towards me.
“The rear doors were still wide open, when the driver of the Focus has put the car into reverse and had then driven directly at me at speed, driving passed and narrowly missing his passengers running towards me on foot in the process.
“I again managed to safely reverse, at speed. It was a residential area, with parked cars on either side, I was forced to reverse out onto a main road, in order to avoid a collision.
“The driver of the Focus appeared intent on causing severe damage to my police vehicle in order to disable me and stop me following. I have no doubt that the intent of the two rear passengers, with their machetes, was to cause me harm.
“At that time, I was aware that these same criminals have been committing violent robberies all over the north west of England for some time, putting members of the public’s lives at risk and causing untold distress and fear to members of staff and customers.”
Aware a police helicopter had been scrambled to help hunt down the robbers, PC Hough again followed the gang as it sped towards Manchester.
He lost sight of it in Carrington. It eventually crossed a field on the Racecourse Estate in Sale and was abandoned on grass at the rear of homes in Ascot Avenue.
In his statement to the court, PC Hough added: “I have been a police officer for 25 years, serving the Cheshire Constabulary and the people of Cheshire. I have seen the best and the worst that life can bring on.
“But I have never ever had suspects so committed to getting away that they would show such intent on harming me or destroying police property, such as they did.
“It was only in the knowledge that my police colleagues were so close, that I continued the pursuit as I did.
“Once the pursuit was over and I had time to reflect, I am not ashamed to say that I found myself shaking and upset by what had just happened.
“I physically felt sick. It brought home to me the recent machete attacks on police officers in the news and how far reaching consequences could be for my own family and children and the greater police family and community as a whole.
“If these criminals have such little fear and respect of the police and believe that they can openly attack them, then they clearly think nothing at all of the consequences on unprotected, innocent members of the public, that in many cases I am sure, will find it hard to return back to work in the aftermath of such a terrifying incident.”
PC Hough has now been recommended for a commendation for his actions that night.
Michael Burke, 40, of Winchester Road, Stretford; Michael Kedie, 30, of Magnolia Court, Sale; Jack Yarwood, 35, of Water Street, Salford; and Stuart Watson, 40, of Kingsway Park, Trafford, admitted conspiracy to rob.
Daniel Adamson, 35, of Hurst Avenue, Sale, was found guilty of the same offence.
Michael Kedie’s brother, Connor Kedie, 23, of Rookfield Avenue, Sale, admitted assisting in the commission of an offence.
Burke, Yarwood, Watson and Adamson were handed life sentences.
Burke must serve a minimum of 15 years and three months; Yarwood a minimum of 10 years and 42 days; Watson a minimum of eight years and ten months; and Adamson a minimum of 11 years and 145 days.
Michael Kedie was jailed for 12 years and three months. Connor Kedie was handed a 12-month suspended sentence.
Detective Sergeant Richard Castley, from GMP’s SOCG, said: “This was a series of terrifying incidents that saw staff members and members of the public in their own homes assaulted and scared for their lives – some of them still haven’t returned to work and are some are still recovering from their ordeal.
“Staff were threatened with machetes and knives, dragged along the floor and manhandled. A family were targeted in their own address, assaulted and threatened with machetes and were fearing for their lives.
“The members of the public targeted by these offenders were simply doing their job to serve the public in their local shop or were in their home addresses when they were confronted with this masked gang armed with weapons.
“Their robbery spree days are now over after our thorough investigation and this sends out a message – no matter how organised and sophisticated a group is – we will track offenders down and bring them to justice.”
The robberies in full:
- 1 – 12/05/19 – Coop, Lymm
- 2 – 19/05/19 Coop, Bowden
- 3 – 26/05/19 Asda Petrol Station, Sale
- 4 – 07/06/19 – Coop, Sale
- 5 – 19/06/19 – One Stop Shop, Wigan
- 6 – 25/06/19 -Coop, Stretford
- 7 – 27/06/19 – McColls, Sale
- 8 – 30/04/19 – Coop, Chadderton
- 9 – 11/07/19 – Coop, Sale
- 10 – 11/07/19 – One Stop Shop, Warrington
- 11 – 18/07/19 – McColls, Warrington
- 12 – 04/08/19 – Coop, Sale
- 13 – 22/08/19 – McColls, Leigh
- 14 – 26/08/19 – McColls, Bramhall
- 15 – 26/08/19 – Coop, Warrington
- 16 – 03/09/19 – Texaco, Umston
- 17 – 03/09/19 – Tesco, Sale
- 18 – 08/09/19 – Coppice Wood Farm Public House
- 19 – 16/09/19 – House in Warburton
- 20 – 19/09/19 – Starbucks, Trafford Park
- 21 – 22/09/19 – Coop Wythenshawe
- 22 – 24/09/19 – One Stop, Sale
- 23 – 25/09/19 – Sainsburys, Altrincham
- 24 – 21/10/19 – Coop, Stretford
- 25 – 30/10/19 – Coop, Stretford
- 26 – 10/11/19 – Coop, Swinton
- 27 – 12/11/19 – Coop, Cheadle Hulme
- 28 – 20/11/19 – Poundland , Urmston
- 29 – 20/11/19 – McColls, Sale