DETECTIVES in Blackpool have smashed a major international crime gang which carried out a series of terrifying armed heists.
Staff at an exclusive resort jewellers were held up by the eastern European thugs who were armed with hammers and guns.
The gang escaped with more than half a million pounds worth of designer watches in the raids at Leonard Dews in Church Street and at another jewellers in Leeds.
But after scouring Europe police are celebrating after a second member of the gang was today starting a 10-year jail sentence
In February 2006, Algo Toomits (above) smashed display cabinets at Leonard Dews and stole a haul of watches including exclusive Patek Philippe pieces.
Just months after the Blackpool raid Toomits and his cronies struck again at Berry’s Jewellers in Leeds.
Leeds Crown Court heard how staff allowed Toomits into the Albion Street shop through an electronic door, believing he was a genuine customer.
But once inside, the 31-year-old pulled out a handgun.
He shouted at staff, ordering them to get down on the ﬂoor.
The court heard how two other men rushed into the shop and used hammers to smash display cabinets during the terrifying raid in February 2007.
The three men escaped with more than 30 watches – including Rolexes – worth a total of £374,000.
The court heard, after the two raids, Toomits returned to his homeland of Estonia.
But traces of his DNA were found on a hammer left at the scene of the Blackpool robbery.
CCTV from the Leeds robbery also showed Toomits wearing a distinctive pair of shoes and a jacket and this information was relayed to police in Estonia.
Meanwhile, in 2007, Toomits was handed a jail sentence of up to four years by an Estonian court for drugs offences.
Estonian police searched his ﬂat and found the jacket and shoes Toomits had been wearing when he committed the robbery in Leeds.
Toomits was deported to the UK under a European Arrest Warrant in May after serving his sentence in Estonia.
He admitted two robberies and two charges of having an imitation ﬁrearm.
Jailing Toomits, the Recorder of Leeds, Judge Peter Collier QC, said he accepted he was not the organiser of the gang but was part of a professional operation which involved meticulous planning and “ruthless precision”.
Two years ago another gang member Kristo Koiduste was jailed for 10 years for his part in the robberies.
Police were tracking down those responsible “one by one”.
The judge added: “It must be understood by all who engage in such crimes, particularly crimes launched and organised from overseas, that they will receive substantial sentences when caught.”
Det Insp Sue Cawley, of Blackpool CID, travelled to Estonia to arrest Koiduste and said officers from the resort had been to Norway to bring in Toomits.
There remains one suspect outstanding, currently serving time in Italy for an unrelated crime, but police will apply for permission to go and quiz him once he is released.
She said: “While we may have some of those responsible charged and convicted we will not rest until all those responsible for these serious crimes are safely under lock and key.
“The staff in Blackpool were left extremely traumatised by the men who broke in with weapons and used fear to get what they wanted.
“The 10 year sentences handed down to both men show how seriously the judge takes crimes like these.
“This investigation has spanned a number of years and seen officers travel into Europe to question and arrest suspected offenders which shows we will leave no stone unturned when investigating such serious crimes in Blackpool.”
Leonard Dews owner Michael Hyman said: “The 2006 robbery was an extremely frightening and stressful experience for the team at our Blackpool store.
“While we have now put the robbery behind us, it is reassuring to learn that justice is being served and that a further perpetrator has been convicted.”
Alastair Edie, defending, said Toomits was recruited at the time because he needed money to fund his addiction to amphetamine as “he was injecting speed”.
While in custody he had managed to get himself clean of the drug and wanted on his release to study psychology at university.