Hammer-wielding Selfridges robber who donned burqa “begged” mum for forgiveness before his imminent capture

Sam Curtin

Sam Curtin - Credit: Archant

A burqa-wearing robber who donned the garment to raid Oxford Street store Selfridges went from a hammer-weilding hardman to a sniffling wreck within minutes of the raid - by phoning his mother in a pathetic plea for forgiveness.

Connor Groake

Connor Groake - Credit: Archant

Islington brothers Sam Curtin, 24, and Connor Groake, 19, were this week jailed for 18 years for their roles in the £1.5 million heist, which saw five armed burqa-wearing men raid the store with axes and sledgehammers before bagging luxury watches.

Scene of the smash and grab robbery in Selfridges

Scene of the smash and grab robbery in Selfridges - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

But the bungling pair were caught after their getaway moped crashed just moments after the robbery.

On Monday Kingston Crown Court heard Curtin broke his leg in the smash and, unable to flee, asked passers-by for a phone while lying on the ground knowing he would be caught.

Stephen Apted, prosecuting, told the court: “He asked if he could call his mum.”

After being given a phone, witnesses heard him saying: “I’m sorry mum, please forgive me.”

The court heard how Curtin had entered Selfridges in a burqa while Groake waited outside on the moped.

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Sentencing the pair Judge Nicholas Price said: “It is clear there was a substantial degree of planning; vehicles being stolen in advance, the way they were dressed, the way they were armed, the way they walked into Selfridges in a military style, the sophisticated way they went to different cabinets – obviously pre-planned – and then leaving the way they did in different vehicles to avoid capture. This was a professionally planned, commercial robbery.

“It was truly chilling to see how this robbery was carried out with such remorseless efficiency.

“Selfridges was busy with shoppers. Members of staff and members of the public were understandably terrified, some screaming and crying and some fearing for their lives.

“The CCTV I have watched gives a graphic demonstration of how so many were cowering in fear and fleeing in panic.”

The CCTV footage played showed six men entering the store through the food hall in burqas after pulling up outside in a BMW van, two motorbikes and a moped.

The gang then walked into the store’s Wonder Room, wielded concealed axes and sledgehammers and smashing several glass cabinets before bagging 142 luxury Rolex, Gucci and Tiffany watches.

Mr Apted told the court: “As they entered the Wonder Room, all of the men removed sledgehammers or axes and began to smash display cabinets.

“They were heard shouting, ‘come on boys, get them all and get every one’.”

Mr Apted said the “ferocity” of the smash and grab meant innocent by-standers feared the incident was a “terror related” attack.

During their getaway Groake and Curtin – the only two caught from ten involved in total – crashed near Goodge Street as they turned a corner too fast, with 42 watches spilling from a holdall into the street.

The court heard Curtin, who appeared in the dock on crutches, remained on the floor while Groake was apprehended by a have-a-go hero after trying to flee.

Mohammed Hussein, a law student, chased Groake before grabbing him by the throat, putting him in a head lock and wrestling him to the ground for officers to arrest.

Judge Price ruled Mr Hussein be awarded for his bravery and ordered he be paid £500.

A total of 101 watches, worth about £1 million, are still unaccounted for while the other robbers remain at large.

Groake, of Wheelwright Street, who has 17 previous convictions for 32 offences, including handling stolen goods and possession of a bladed article, was sentenced to eight years for conspiracy to rob and two for aggravated vehicle taking, to run concurrently.

Curtin, of Holloway Road, who was convicted for two similar style raids involving sledgehammers on a hotel and jewellers in 2009, was given 10 years for conspiracy to rob and 18 months for aggravated vehicle taking. He had only been released from prison in November.