Armed raiders jailed for robbery at Hatton Country World

The case was heard at Warwick Crown Court, which sits at the Justice Centre in Leamington

The case was heard at Warwick Crown Court, which sits at the Justice Centre in Leamington

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Armed raiders who targeted staff at a Warwickshire tourist attraction threatened to hack off one woman’s fingers with a machete if she did not open a safe for them.

But two members of the gang were caught less than two hours after taking more than £4,000 in cash in the terrifying raid at Hatton Country World near Warwick.

And at Warwick Crown Court Craig Covington and Steven McNulty pleaded guilty to taking part in the robbery in July last year and possessing offensive weapons.

Covington (30) of Cross Road, Foleshill, Coventry, was jailed for five years and two months, of which he will serve half, after being given credit for his plea.

But McNulty (27) of Bathurst Road, Radford, Coventry, was given an ‘extended sentence’ after the court heard his previous convictions included an armed raid on a bookies in 2008.

Under the sentence he was jailed for six years and eight months, of which he will serve two-thirds, and will then be on licence for the rest of the term and for a further four years.

Prosecutor Andrew Wilkins said that on July 23 female members of staff at Hatton Country World had cashed up at the end of the day and put the money in a safe when they heard voices.

They were then confronted by three masked men, one of whom was armed with a machete, while McNulty had a hammer which was said by Judge Andrew Lockhart QC to be more like an ice axe.

The court heard that the one with the machete has not been caught, although a third man had been arrested but then had the case against him dropped, and Covington entered his plea on the basis that he was the unarmed raider.

The women were ordered back up to the safe room, where there were safes for various departments at Hatton Country World.

One woman, the catering supervisor for the Spinning Jenny restaurant, was ordered to unlock the safes.

She entered the code for one of the safes before one of the raiders grabbed the keys from her to finish unlocking it, and cash was removed by Covington and put into a bag.

One of her colleagues, who is originally from South Africa where she had been subjected to an armed robbery before, was told to open another safe.

When she was unable to do so she was ordered to put her hands on top of the safe, and the man with the machete threatened to cut her fingers off, bringing the machete down as if to carry out his threat.

And McNulty raised his weapon as well to re-inforce the threat to her.

The three raiders, who also took a handbag belonging to one of the women, then left with a total of £4,371 in cash.

But Covington and McNulty immediately came under suspicion, and were arrested less than two hours later as they returned to McNulty’s home and were seen taking cash bags from the boot of McNulty’s car.

Mr Wilkins added that both men had a large number of previous convictions, and in 2008 McNulty had been jailed for five years after robbing staff at a bookmakers at knifepoint, while Covington’s convictions included a ram raid burglary in 2009.

Jailing the two men, Judge Lockhart told them: “While both of you say you were not involved in the planning, plainly the incident was planned and you would have had to have understood what the plan was and how it was to be carried out.

“You had to be aware that weapons were to be carried, and the reason was so they could be used if necessary.

“It was plain you would have known this was a facility staffed by women who would be obliged to cash up at the end of the day when all others had left the premises.

“You McNulty had what was described as a hammer but is more aptly described as an ice axe. It is a terrifying weapon, and your accomplice had a machete.

“The problem with the carrying of weapons like this is that if people resist, they are readily used.”

Outlining the aggravating features of the case, the judge said: “This was a pre-planned offence, you wore disguises and were armed, and this was an offence against vulnerable women.”

And he added: “The message must go out from this court that those who commit violent robberies against vulnerable members of the public must expect condign punishment.”