Three men have been jailed after an attempted armed robbery at a bank in Lutterworth.
The raid took place at Natwest in High Street on January 24 when two of the robbers, Leroy Williams and Robert Allen, entered the bank wearing balaclavas.
One had what appeared to be a sawn-off shotgun and the second had a silver handgun which was discharged during the raid.
The handgun was later recovered, as was an empty cartridge left at the bank, and it was confirmed the handgun was a blank firing gun.
The pair were unsuccessful in gaining the co-operation of bank staff and a customer who was in the bank at the time, and left empty-handed.
Lincoln Crown Court heard that brave staff foiled the raid by barricading themselves inside a strong room.
As one of the raiders pointed a sawn-off shotgun at them the staff ran from the room leaving the robbers with no way of getting any cash.
The men then threatened to shoot the only customer in the branch before leaving empty-handed.
The court was told the two women behind the counter managed to flee into a secure room but the only customer was left in fear for his life as the men discussed whether or not to shoot him.
By chance a police helicopter, scrambled to deal with a completely different incident, was almost directly overhead when the alarm was raised.
The pilot was able to follow the Range Rover getaway car back to the robbers’ base at Broughton Astley where they were arrested.
The shotgun was never recovered but at the time of his arrest Allen was found in possession of a black holdall bag similar to one seen on CCTV.
Inside that bag were six live shotgun cartridges.
Getaway driver Bryn Parker waited outside the bank in a cloned car and drove the two men out of Lutterworth.
Once outside the town they swapped cars and Richard Christopher drove the getaway car back towards Leicester where he destroyed it by setting it alight.
Parker, Allen and Williams returned to Allen’s address in Broughton Astley where they were arrested following the deployment of the police helicopter, firearms officers and dog-handlers.
All four denied the offence during interviews and only after months of work did Allen and Parker finally admit guilty pleas. Williams and Christopher were found guilty after a trial.
Christopher (26) of Trigo Close, Leicester, was sentenced to 15 years for robbery and firearms offences.
Allen (33) of Hall Farm Crescent, Broughton Astley, was sentenced to 11 years and six months for robbery and firearms offences.
Parker (31) of The Fairway, Leicester, was sentenced to 11 years and six months for robbery and firearms offences and an additional six months for handling stolen goods and common assault.
The men pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing. Sentencing took place at Lincoln Crown Court last week.
Williams (35) of Hallam Crescent East, Leicester, was convicted on August 2 of attempted robbery and firearms offences after a nine-day trial. He will be sentenced on October 18.
Senior investigating officer, Det Insp Shaun Orton, said: “This was a desperate and ill-conceived attack and had our firearms and dog unit not been so quick in arresting these men then I’m sure this gang would have gone on to offend again employing a similar level of incompetency and violence.
“The fact that live ammunition was recovered reflects the seriousness of his offending and the threat he and his associates could have posed to the public.
“Bank robbery and gun crime is rare in Leicestershire but this case shows that when it does occur, it is met with a robust and effective police response.
“DC Ian Washington in particular worked diligently for many weeks to identify the Christopher, fourth and final member of the gang, who fled in the getaway car whilst the other three were being arrested in Broughton Astley.
“The bank staff and customer were put in fear for their own safety when they were simply going about their day to day business and they are the victims in this case. I hope that they can now feel reassured by the fact these men are no longer a risk to the public.”