A FORMER professional boxer is behind bars for 11½ years for two terrifying robberies and a blackmail plot.
Andrew Ross, from Aydon House, Sunderland, held up a night porter at knifepoint at the Village Hotel in North Shields, and made off with more than £6,000 in cash from the safe with the help of an “inside man” who was working there in October 2012.
In May last year, he terrified two women working at the Whitburn Post Office when he burst in with a Beretta handgun and demanded cash.
The 31-year-old did not get any money, but made off with an iPhone belonging to the one customer – a soldier.
As well as the two raids, Ross, a former world record-holder for punches and press-ups, demanded cash from the two owners of Harbour View Motors in Sunderland by damaging their vehicles and making phone demands for money to make the vandalism stop. Twelve cars and the owners’ homes were targeted, leaving their families terrified.
When Ross was arrested, he held a police officer hostage while brandishing a knife.
The undercover officer had gone to Ross’s home dressed as a pizza delivery owner in a bid to catch him unawares and was left terrified and needing time off work because of his ordeal.
Ross admitted robbery, attempted robbery, possessing a firearm, blackmail, affray and false imprisonment.
Judge Penny Moreland told him: “It is a great shame to see a man who has potential for good appearing for sentence for such offences as these.”
The court heard Ross, a former soldier, has raised a fortune for charities with his sporting challenges in the past. He had been driven to the Village hotel hold-up by Mark Wright and Daniel Walton, who waited in the car a mile away. His pal Carl Riley, who worked there, ensured the door was kept wedged open to allow him easy access.
Riley then “played along” with being held up by a stranger, while he and his workmate were locked in a cupboard.
Ross left with £6,434 from the safe, which has never been recovered.
The court heard mobile phone records proved a link between Ross and Riley and showed they had been in regular contact before and after the raid.
Riley, 24, of Gregory Road, Sunderland, was jailed for three years and nine months. He had admitted robbery.
Walton, 24, of Milton Street, South Shields, and Wright, 23, of Stafford Road, Sunderland, were given 18-month sentences, suspended for two years, with 200 hours’ unpaid work.
Both had admitted theft on the basis they were unaware Ross was planning to commit a robbery when they accompanied him to the area of the hotel.
Prosecutor Jolyon Perks told the court Ross burst into Whitburn Post Office wearing a balaclava and shouted “give me the money”, which prompted the two women working at the counter to drop to the floor out of sight.
Ross pointed his weapon at a customer, who was forced to hand over his iPhone, while one of the women bravely crawled along the floor behind the counter to call the police.
Ross claimed the gun used in the raid was a replica, but it has never been found for that fact to be verified.
The court heard David Roberts, 20, of Raby Street, Sunderland, advertised the stolen phone for sale on Facebook and Gumtree.
He admitted handling stolen goods and was sentenced to a community order for 12 months with supervision.
During the protection racket Ross had warned the garage owners they had to pay him £800 upfront followed by £50 monthly instalments to stop their premises and property being attacked.