THE FIGUREHEAD of a sophisticated crime outfit who went on the run to the Costa Blanca has been jailed for ten-and-a-half years.
Convicted killer Richard ‘Ricky’ Smith, 37, and his crew – dubbed the ‘wham ram gang’ – committed seven ‘terrifying’ armed raids on private security vans in the Manchester area over seven months.
They used ‘innovative’ methods to make off with £275,000 (€318,000), prosecutors told Manchester Crown Court.
Gang members Patrick McDonagh, 37, John Groom, 35, and David Dargan, 32, have also been convicted for the heists.
The quartet used a ‘wham ram’ – a specially-designed battering tool – to break through the internal doors of G4S security vans in the first five raids.
And the tactic was so unique it forced G4S chiefs to increase the strength of the doors, the court heard.
They were snared in the wake of a probe after McDonagh was caught on a security camera with his balaclava up.
After an unsuccessful hold-up at a post office, police swooped on them at a pub car park near junction 4 of the M61.
McDonagh was arrested while Smith, Groom, and Dargan fled towards the motorway slip road where they tried to carjack an elderly couple, punching the 64-year-old driver in the face before being cuffed.
The court also heard how they took ‘meticulous’ steps to avoid being caught, including the use of multiple getaway cars, some of which were burned out after the robberies, while bleach was used to wipe away forensic evidence.
Salford-born Smith was in 2010 held by Spanish police on suspicion of attempted robbery in Alicante.
He was at the time wanted under a European Arrest Warrant after he was sprung from a prison van. The vehicle was attacked by men wielding crowbars as it drove him to Salford Magistrate’s Court to be quizzed in connection with the torching of a vehicle yard used by police, in what investigators said was a bid to destroy criminal evidence.
In 2001 Smith was caged for five and a half years for the manslaughter of ex-paratrooper Ben Kamanalagi, who was beaten to death outside a Manchester nightclub where he was working as a bouncer.