A carjacking gang who targeted lone female drivers − threatening them with knives, metal poles, hammers and guns − have been jailed for more than 60 years following a joint investigation between police in the West Midlands, Staffordshire and Warwickshire.

Ringleader of the gang Paul Doyle, aged 41, along with 22-year-olds Luke Mander and Joshua Barrett struck at least 46 times in just 11 weeks between October and December 2018 according to West Midlands Police.

The detectives investigating this crime spree have estimated the gang stole high-end cars worth in excess of half a million pounds.

Doyle, of no fixed address, was described in court as a “puppet master” who pulled the strings of his younger, impressionable co-conspirators and would encourage them to inflict serious harm against any victim who dared to fight back.

Doyle (left) allegedly held the gang under a tight grip and police described him as a “puppet master”

Their crime spree began on the night of 3 October 2018 when a 51-year-old woman was dragged from her car in Maryland Avenue, Hodge Hill, by two masked men who drove off in her Peugeot.

Eight days later, a 48-year-old woman was set upon by two masked men wielding metal poles as they stole her Audi Q5 at Marston Green train station.

The men were involved in more violent robberies in October including carjackings at Dorridge train station, Princess Alice Retail Park in Sutton Coldfield and Chelmsley Town Football Club.

On 9 November 2018, they struck at a shop in Norwich Croft, Chelmsley Wood, where CCTV shows the shop assistant − who was eight-months’ pregnant − cowering on the floor having been threatened with a handgun as the men bagged alcohol, cigarettes and cash.

And on 4 December 2018 the heartless gang sank to new lows when they pulled a pistol on a 56-year-old man as he tended his wife’s graveside at Streetly Crematorium in Birmingham.

They failed to start the victim’s Nissan GTR and, as they fled, dropped a glove which when forensically examined by West Midlands Police returned a DNA hit to Doyle.

The gang used a gun when carjacking in a cemetery – police recovered a glove with Doyle’s DNA

The group also travelled to Weston-Super-Mare to target a motorbike convention and owners who were staying in caravan parks while attending the event.

A handbag snatched from the 35-year-old woman at Chelmsley Town FC on 17 October 2018 was also discovered in a car at Weston, while phone analysis showed Mander and Barrett were in the seaside town at the time.

Two motorhomes were taken on 19 October 2018 − both of which were later recovered − while detectives later seized images from Mander’s phone showing him posing on a beach with one of the stolen vehicles.

Mander posing next to a stolen motorhome

Another crucial breakthrough came on 27 November 2018 when the driver of a vehicle recovery truck was hijacked at Bassett’s Pole by masked men who stole the VW Golf he was transporting. Officers scoured the scene of the offence and recovered a phone dropped by Mander during the scuffle.

Mander was arrested by West Midlands Police in the early hours of 20 December 2018 behind the wheel of a pick-up truck stolen two days earlier in Redditch and Doyle detained the following day.

Barrett was detained at an address linked to him in Greenhill Way, Shirley, on 22 November 2018 and, when officers searched the home, they uncovered keys to a Mercedes AMG C63S taken by robbers armed with a knife and firearm from Bell Lane, Tile Cross, on 8 November 2018.

Police recovered a knife which was used by the violent crooks

Detectives discovered further damning ‘selfies’ showing the wanted men pictured alongside stolen cars and secured further DNA and mobile phone evidence linking them to crime scenes across the West Midlands, Staffordshire, Warwickshire and West Mercia.

All three men pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal motor vehicles and the robberies − but only Doyle, shown on CCTV brandishing the pistol during the Solihull shop raid, admitted firearms offences with Barrett and Mander suggesting they had no knowledge a gun was to be used.

However, a jury found them both guilty of conspiring to possess and possessing an imitation gun and at Birmingham Crown Court on Tuesday 10th March2020 they were handed lengthy jail terms.

Doyle was sentenced to 24 years imprisonment. Mander, from Kingsbury Road, Birmingham, and Barratt from Greenhill Way, Shirley, were handed jail terms of 16-and-a-half and 18 years respectively.

Barrett (left), Mander (middle) and Carter (right) have all been jailed

A fourth man, 18-year-old Kier Carter, from Kingsbury Road in Erdington, admitted being involved in the car thefts at an earlier hearing and was jailed for three years.

Investigating officer, Detective Constable Adam Buzzard, welcomed the sentences, and said:

“Doyle is a dangerous, erratic individual with a penchant for violence − he’s a convicted armed robber who was only released from prison in July 2018 after almost a decade behind bars.

“He recruited Mander and Barrett to carry out his offending; even when not present at offences he was clearly orchestrating the attacks, acting as a puppet master for Mander and Barrett who were drawn in by an older role model and the promise of quick cash.

“The group were brazen, not afraid to commit robberies in broad daylight on their own doorstep in Chelmsley Wood.

“We recovered many of the stolen cars − but the impact on victims has been profound with most suffering long term psychological damage as well as having to carry the physical scars of injuries.

“They have rightly been handed long prison sentences for what was a shocking series of robberies.”

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