A postmaster conspired to stage a ‘fake’ £185,000 armed robbery at a post office, a trial heard.
Mohammed Iqbal, who worked at the Rishton branch, allowed himself to be chloroformed and tied up by ‘armed men’ wearing ‘CSI-style’ body suits in front of CCTV cameras.
Brothers Terry and Jason Yarwood, who donned the boiler suit outfits complete with gloves, goggles and protective shoes, then made off with ‘inside man’ Iqbal’s car and £185,000 in cash, stamps and postal orders, a jury heard.
Burnley Crown Court heard that the incident on June 5, 2015, was a ‘well organised, well executed, sophisticated criminal activity played for high stakes’ and that Iqbal was a ‘prime mover with the conspiracy’.
However prosecutor Timothy Brennand said the gang ‘were not quite as clever as they thought they were’ and made a ‘number of mistakes that permitted the police to uncover what really happened’.
Iqbal, 33, of Maple Crescent, Preston, Terry Yarwood, 36, of Ridley Road, Preston, and Jason Yarwood, 40, of Preston, have all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to steal monies from Rishton post office and are awaiting sentence.
Avaiz Samad has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to steal monies from the post office.
The 23-year-old, of Blackpool Road, Ashton-on-Ribble, Preston, says he was duped into being a getaway driver following the incident on June 5, 2015.
Mr Brennand said: “These men played out their role in a staged robbery. If I was Donald Trump I think I could call it a fake robbery.
“What’s unusual about this case is it was an inside job and the insider was Mohammed Iqbal, the brother of the lady who runs the Post Office in Rishton.
“He was employed by her and worked there on an ad-hoc basis. It’s Mohammed Iqbal who has provided much of the intelligence and information upon which this conspiracy is founded.”
The prosecutor said the post office had previously been targeted in a ‘violent and unpleasant’ robbery in 2014, but this was ‘separate and unconnected’.
The court heard how Iqbal began to cover for the absence of his sister from November 2014 as she was off work due to injury.
Mr Brennand said Iqbal ‘became familiar with the processes of the post office’ and it gave him ‘insider knowledge’ for the conspiracy.
The court heard how the ‘staged’ incident happened at 5.45pm - 15 minutes after the High Street post office closed - and it was ‘cash rich’ after £95,000 had been dropped off earlier in the day for the ATM machine.
Mr Brennand said: “The robbery took only a matter of moments to execute. This was a fake robbery but one where it was decided, in order to convey to the cameras that were watching, that a great deal of force was being applied.”
The court heard how earlier in the afternoon Iqbal travelled to Preston to collect the Yarwood brothers and hid them in the post office garage until the time of robbery.
Iqbal had been friends with Terry Yarwood for 10 years and had begun planning the operation three weeks earlier while Jason Yarwood was brought in as ‘muscle’, the court heard.
A camera at the back of the post office was disabled using tape.
Mr Brennand said Iqbal was found bundled up and ‘looking out of it, woozy and dazed’ and was taken to hospital.
He ‘sought to pursuade’ police that he was a ‘genuine victim of the robbery’. However he was caught out after an analysis of his mobile phone and vehicle number plate camera searches showed connections between him and Terry Yarwood.
The court was told how Iqbal had also been ‘making enquiries on his phone how to get hold of chloroform’.
Mr Brennand said at hospital officers became ‘concerned about the voracity of what he was saying’ and also became suspicious when he refused to give them his mobile phone pin number.
Jason Yarwood later made ‘significant admissions’ in his police interview and officers also found a glove at the back of the post office with his DNA on.
The trial continues
Man, 23, accused of acting as 'getaway driver' for £185k post office robbers
A man claims he was duped into being the ‘getaway driver’ in the ‘staged’ £185,000 Rishton post office robbery, a court was told.
Avaiz Samad is accused of transporting brothers Terry and Yason Yarwood from Rishton to Preston moments after the incident on June 5, 2015.
The 23-year-old, of Blackpool Road, Ashton-on-Ribble, Preston, has pleaded not guilty at Burnley Crown Court to conspiracy to steal monies from the post office on High Street between May 20 and June 6, 2015.
Tim Brennand, prosecuting, told the jury that Mr Samad ‘acted as a getaway driver to facilitate Yarwood brothers getting away from Rishton in the immediate aftermath of the fake robbery to the Preston area.’
The prosecutor said that vehicle number plate cameras and mobile phone tracking data showed Mr Samad allegedly leaving Preston at 4.22pm on June 5 and arriving in Rishton at 5.41pm.
He told the jury this was a ‘pre-organised getaway’ and that an M65 camera showed Mr Samad travelling back to Preston at 6.11pm ‘with at least one other person in the car’.
He said: “This was with £185,000 [the Yarwood borthers] had with them. They weren’t going to jump on a bus.
"The care, cunning, guile and forethought is a hallmark of what was happening. At every stage thought has been deployed as to what was going to happen and what should play out.”
A police search of Mr Samad’s home showed a car tax disk in Terry Yarwood’s name, the court heard.
When questioned by police he denied any involvement or knowledge of the robbery and said he didn’t know postmaster Mohammed Iqbal, the jury was told.
In a later defence case statement, Mr Samad said he was ‘acquainted’ with Iqbal as they went to the same mosque and Terry Yarwood was a ‘close and trusted family friend and business associate’.
In the statement Mr Samad said he was asked by Terry Yarwood to collect him and his brother from an address in Rishton where he had been doing building work.
He said: “At no time before, during or after this was there any discussion in relation to alleged staged robbery and at no time agreed to be part of any such activity.”
Mr Brennand said Mr Samad claims he was ‘unwillingly involved and duped’ but dismissed it as an ‘illogical and implausible explanation’.