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Armless getaway driver leads police a merry dance

100mph jewellery heist pursuit ends in crash and court

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An semi-armless teenager who acted as getaway driver on a jewellery heist, driving at 100mph during a police pursuit "despite needing somebody to change the gears for him", has escaped jail, the Telegraph reports.

John Smith, 18 - who has no arms below the elbow - was in charge of a Ford Focus during the robbery of Ernest Jones in Hempstead Valley shopping centre near Rainham, Kent, on 17 December last year.

At 2am, the three other members of the gang smashed the shop window with a claw hammer and made off with £174,445 worth of jewellery. Cue a high-speed chase along the A2 towards London, until Smith lost control of the car and crashed on the approach to the Blackwall Tunnel.

Despite "heavy damage" to the vehicle, Smith attempted to continue, but a police car forced him against the tunnel wall.

Recorder Charles George QC of Maidstone Crown Court told Smith that "his disability and the fact he did not take part in the raid itself enabled him to suspend the custodial sentence".

Accordingly, he sentenced Smith to a 12-month youth custody order, suspended for two years, slapped a six-month electronically-tagged curfew on the teen and ordered him to attend a Probation service "Think First" programme.

Two other partcipants in the heist, who pleaded guilty to burglary, were jailed. Tyrone Tassell, 21, from Walthamstow, copped 32 months, "less 224 days already served on remand or under a tagged curfew".

Sunni Sacco, 19, address unknown, earned two years in a young offenders' institution, "less 241 days served on remand or under tagged curfew".

The third ne'er-do-well, Craig Phillips of Islington, is subject to a two-year supervision order and a six-month electronically-tagged curfew. ®

Bootnote

The reason for Smith's armlessness is not given. The Daily Mail says he "cannot dress himself and lives at home with his mother" and clarifies that he is "not thought to have been wearing prosthetic arms during the chase".

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