A violent gang who stole cars and motorbikes to carry out a string of armed robberies across Tyneside have been jailed for more than 45 years.
In August Ricky Weatherson, Michael Quinn and Kevin Shippen admitted their part in five terrifying raids at the turn of the year.
They stole thousands of pounds over a three month period that saw them target cash and transit vans across Newcastle and North Tyneside.
Their criminal activity culminated in a violent robbery at a shop on Westgate Road in February where a staff member was attacked with a machete.
He suffered two serious cuts trying to fend off the thugs but police were able to arrest the two men responsible just hours later.
It was those arrests that sparked a six-month investigation by Northumbria Police and now Weatherson, 27, Quinn, 37, and Shippen, 41, have been jailed for a total of 44 years.
Shaun Leach, 33, was also jailed for three-and-a-half years after he admitted helping to steal cars and motorbikes used in the robberies.
Co-accused Jayne Molloy, Amy Cooper and Katie Gales all avoided immediate custodial sentences after admitting to hiding the gang's loot.
During the sentencing, the judge commended Northumbria Police's investigative team for the work they did to put the gang before the court.
And now Detective Sergeant Mark Atherton has revealed how specialist detectives worked day and night to collate a "mountain of evidence" against the thieves.
He said: "This is a sophisticated gang who put a lot of planning into their crimes and wreaked havoc across Tyneside over a three-month period.
"It wasn't until Quinn and Weatherson were arrested after the attack on Ria Money that we began to realise just how big a conspiracy this was.
"A specialist team of detectives was brought together and in the following months we were able to identify the other members of their gang.
"What we faced was a really complex investigation into a gang that was made up of individuals who know the criminal justice system.
"These men are known to police, they know the tactics we use and they have taken measures to ensure their tracks have been covered.
"We have had to work incredibly hard to bring together the pieces of the jigsaw and in the end they were left with no choice but to plead guilty because of the mountain of evidence against them.
"These are violent, dangerous men who brandished terrifying weapons that they had no qualms about using against their victims.
"To have the ringleaders jailed to nearly 45 years is a fantastic result and I am confident that Tyneside's streets are safer with these men behind bars."
The spate of violent attacks started on December 21 last year when two men on pedal cycles targeted a security man at the ASDA on Adelaide Terrace in Benwell.
He had been transferring money to his van when the thugs sprayed him with an unknown substance and tried to steal his money case. However, they fled empty handed after the man resisted.
The next attack came on January 11 when a man targeted another security worker as he made his way back to his van outside the High Main pub on Shields Road in Byker.
CCTV showed the attacker waiting for his victim outside the pub before he pounced on him from behind and made off with the cash box containing £11,000.
Then on February 12, Shippen and Quinn carried out another cash in transit robbery at Heron Foods on Churchill Road in Howdon.
Frightening CCTV was played in court that showed the men brandishing hammers and attacking the terrified security guard in the shop car park. They were able to steal his case but there was no cash inside.
The penultimate raid took place just a week later, on February 19, when the thieves returned to the ASDA in Benwell they had attempted to rob last December.
They again targeted a security guard as he left the store with a cash box but their victim was able to get into the safety of his van before the two men pounced.
Later that evening their spate of robberies culminated in the most violent offence when Quinn and Weatherson entered Ria Money on Westgate Road.
The men burst into the shop armed with a huge machete, trashed the shop and demanded shopkeeper Tariq Sheik hand over money.
When he refused the thugs then delivered two crushing blows with the blade, causing deep cut wounds to Tariq's shoulder and hand.
The men were able to steal thousands of pounds before making their escape on a motorcycle, however, they were tracked by response officers and located hiding in a nearby garage.
In the following months, Shippen was identified as a third robber working alongside Quinn and Weatherson to commit some of the crimes.
Shaun Leach was also charged with stealing a vehicle in a burglary in Benwell that he committed with Weatherson.
Malloy, Cooper and Gayler were then all arrested after items linked to the robberies were found stashed in their homes.
At Newcastle Crown Court on Friday (October 12) the gang, who were all based in the west end of Newcastle, were jailed for a total of more than 45 years.
Quinn, of Colston Street, was jailed for 16 years after admitting to conspiracy to rob.
Weatherson, of Rushie Avenue, was jailed for 15 years after admitting to conspiracy to rob and burglary.
Shippen, of Whickham View, was jailed for 13 years and four months after admitting to conspiracy to rob.
Leach, of Cannon Street, was jailed for three-and-a-half years after admitting to burglary dwelling and handling stolen goods.
Leach's partner, Jayne Malloy, 29, of Cannon Street, was handed a 12 month sentence suspended for two years after admitting to handling stolen goods.
Cooper, 29, Broomridge Avenue, and Gales, 27, of Coventry Gardens, both admitted handling stolen goods and were each handed a two year community order with 150 hours of unpaid work.
Quinn and Weatherson were sentenced under the dangerous offenders provisions, which means they must serve at least two thirds of their sentence prior to being considered for release.
Pictured (L-R): Ricky Weatherson, Michael Quinn, Kevin Shippen, Shaun Leach, Jayne Malloy, Amy Cooper, Katie Gales.