A father and son robbed a village post office in Leeds disguised in wigs, hats and women’s clothing, with one being pushed in a wheelchair, a court heard.
Martin Pick, 38, who was today given a jail term totalling 23 years, and his son Declan Pick, then aged 17, targeted Boston Spa Post Office shortly before 9.30am on Monday, March 23, last year.
They were filmed on CCTV entering the shop with the older man being pushed in a wheelchair.
Their bizarre disguises immediately aroused the suspicions of the postmaster Anthony Williams and his son Michael who were working behind the counter.
A number of women customers fled the shop as Martin Pick pulled out a shotgun from under a blanket he had over his knees and jumped onto the counter demanding money.
Declan Pick produced what appeared to be a handgun and the pair forced open one of the tills and stole cash.
They demanded the postmaster open the safe but he told them there was no more money.
At this point Declan Pick pointed the pistol at him and pulled the trigger, although it was believed to be an air pistol and no pellet was discharged.
A number of people in the busy high street had become aware of the robbery and alerted police before planning to intervene with one man initially holding the door to the post office shut.
The robbers ran from the shop after stuffing £2,000 into a handbag they had brought with them and were chased into the street by the postmaster.
Members of the public, some of them elderly, also gave chase and pulled off the robbers’ hats and wigs and tried to detain the men as they attempted to escape in a stolen white Nissan Juke driven by Martin Pick’s older brother Mark.
During the struggle, the postmaster was hit over the head with a crowbar by one of the robbers who was then disarmed by a witness.
The Nissan pulled away but the offenders soon realised Martin Pick had been left behind and was being held down by members of the public. The vehicle reversed back to where he was and one of the men, believed to be Declan Pick, emerged with the shotgun and fired it into the air.
This caused the people holding his father to release him and the three sped off. All the cash they had stolen was recovered at the scene of the struggle.
The car, which had been stolen in a burglary in Wetherby in February, was found on fire in nearby Beeches End a short time later. It was bearing different registration plates, front and back, which had been stolen from two vehicles in Meanwood and Headingley over the weekend. The men had switched to another car before leaving the area.
Detectives quickly identified Martin Pick as a suspect. He was living in the nearby village of Clifford and had been jailed for ten years in 2004 for being part of a group that committed and conspired to commit armed robberies at shop, post offices and other businesses across West Yorkshire.
He was arrested by firearms officers at an address in Gipton in the early hours of Wednesday, March 25.
He refused to answer any questions in his police interview but denied being involved in the robbery.
Forensic work on the wigs recovered at the scene found enough of Martin Pick’s DNA to suggest he had worn one of them.
Mark Pick was arrested on April 3. His DNA was found on a pair of sunglasses that were recovered from the bag containing the stolen money that was left at the scene.
He refused to answer questions or offer any explanation as to how his DNA could have got there.
Both men were charged with the robbery and possession of firearms and were remanded in custody.
Martin Pick’s son Declan Pick was arrested on May 25 after his DNA was found on the second wig recovered from the scene.
He claimed he had worn it for a joke at a house some time before the robbery but wouldn’t elaborate on the circumstances.
He was unable to explain the apparent coincidence that his father’s and uncle’s DNA had also been found on the other items recovered at the robbery scene.
He was charged with the robbery and firearms offences and with taking the stolen Nissan without consent.
Martin Pick pleaded guilty to robbery and possession of a firearm with criminal intent when he appeared at court. Mark and Declan Pick were found guilty of the same offences after a trial at Leeds Crown Court in November.
Martin Pick, of Willow Avenue, Clifford, was told he must serve a minimum of two thirds of an 18 year sentence.
He will only be released if considered safe to do so me the parole board. Pick will then be subject to five year extended licence period.
Mark Pick, 42, of Lea Farm Road, Leeds, was jailed for 16 years. Declan Pick, of Esthwaite Gardens, Leeds, will be sentenced at a later date.
Judge Tom Bayliss, QC, said: “What of course, none of you can possibly have anticipated was the sheer pluck, bravery and determination of the postmaster and other local residents to defeat your criminal enterprise.
“They were determined not to let you get away with it. The public spirit of Boston Spa came to the fore.”
The court heard Mr Williams had now put his business up for sale as he was unable to overcome the trauma of what he and his family had gone through.
Detective Inspector Phil Jackson, of Leeds District CID, said: “Although the bizarre disguises these men used may make this incident seem like a comedy, for those involved it was deadly serious and was clearly a very frightening experience in what is normally a quiet village.
“The postmaster was hit over the head during the struggle after he and his son were threatened at gunpoint. A shotgun was fired in the street and although we think that was probably a blank round, the people involved wouldn’t have known that at the time.
“This makes the actions of the members of the public who intervened even more courageous. When most people would be running away from two armed men, they were running towards them and seemed determined not to let them get away with robbing their local post office.
“Their actions meant the robbers were forced to flee empty-handed and leave behind crucial evidence that we were able to use to link them to the crime.
“There is clearly a strong sense of community in Boston Spa and, while we would never encourage people to put themselves at risk, we have to recognise the bravery people showed here which proved absolutely vital in bringing these men to justice.
“We hope it will provide some reassurance to the victims, the witnesses and the wider community to know that these men are now safely behind bars.”