FOUR armed robbers who stole £200,000 have been jailed today, Friday.

One of the shops targeted was the McColls convenience store on Car Bank Street in Atherton last August.

Richard Smith, 27, from Salford, Patrick McDonagh, 37, from Whitefield, David Dargan, 32, of no fixed abode, and John Groom, 36, from Worsley, were all sentenced at Manchester Minshull Street Crown Court.

In the robberies, the culprits wore a SWAT team-like uniform, involved at least two vehicles with false number plates and they took identical steps to disguise the evidence they were leaving behind.

Smith and his associates robbed shops, banks and cash-in-transit drivers stole as much money as possible before any alarms were raised.

With cash-in-transit drivers, they would park up vans, identify their opportunity and scare the driver away.

The gang would then attack the van, sometimes with a wham ram to access the cash.

Once back in the van, they would drive to a place where they had left a getaway car and switch vehicles before disposing of the false plates and drive away.

They used crowbars, sledgehammers or wham rams in the incidents from December 2016 to August 2017.

They threw a metal grid through a glass door before ransacking a bank on one occasion.

Although they thought they were covering their tracks, officers mapped the groups processes and lay in wait on August 29, 2017 behind what would be their final getaway car.

They arrived in a white can and moved their swag in the getaway car.

Police came round the corner and intercepted the gang, who ran away but straight towards officers and detained them.

While they thought they were doing their best to cover their tracks, officers were able to work out the group’s disciplined processes, and on 29 August 2017, they lay in wait behind what would be the final getaway car.

Without fail, they arrived in a white van and began to move their swag into the getaway car.

Operation Dominator is the investigation that officers set up to deal with the case.

Detective Sergeant Rick Castley of GMP’s Serious and Organised Group, said: “They were clearly a sophisticated organised crime group who ended up stealing a huge amount of money, all at the risk of businesses and people’s safety.

“With the amount of money they were managing to get their hands on, I am sure they were hoping to make quite a lavish life out of this without putting in a hard day’s work.

“Today we can rest easy that they will be seeing out the next part of their lives in prison where no amount of fear or battering rams will help them escape.”

Smith was jailed for 10 years and six months for one count of conspiracy to commit robbery, two counts of robbery and one count of attempted robbery.

McDonagh was sentenced to 10 years and six months for one count of conspiracy to commit robbery and two counts of robbery.

Dargan was jailed to six years and six months for one count of attempted robbery and two counts of robbery.

Groom was sentenced to six years and six months for one count of attempted robbery and two counts of robbery.

Head of Safercash Sarah Staff added: “The outcome of this investigation is an excellent example of the Greater Manchester Police Serious and Organised Crime Groups dedication and ability to tackle serious and organised crime at the highest level.

"Safercash continues to support the partnership work between the UK Police Service and the financial and security industry whose staff and employees are affected by these serious crimes.”