How a school parking permit led police to catching robbery gang

Balaclava-clad robbers who attacked US visitors with knife and stun gun to steal £100,000 Rolex watch in terrifying street heist are jailed for total of 15 years

  • Thomas Lenaghan, Ronnie Fitzgerald and John Stovell are jailed for the robbery
  • Police traced them thanks to a school parking permit on the stolen getaway car 

Two Rolex robbers who used a stun gun to snatch a £100,000 watch from a group of American tourists during a terrifying street heist have been jailed. 

Thomas Lenaghan, 24, and Ronnie Fitzgerald, 20, used a stun gun to zap their victim before they made off in a stolen car.

The horrifying attack took place in London’s plush Chelsea district just after midnight on November 16 and was captured on CCTV.

The masked muggers, all dressed in black, surrounded the victim, a 31-year-old man, before pummeling him to the floor where they stunned him and demanded he handed over the costly watch.

Thomas Lenaghan (left), 23, and Ronnie Fitzgerald, 20, (right) both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to rob, threatening a person with a bladed article in a public place, possession of a stun gun and threatening a person with a stun gun.

Despite being caught on CCTV and on mobile phones, police struggled to identify the masked robbers. 

The car used, a Jaguar F-PACE, was stolen and had false plates, again leaving investigators at a dead-end.

In a determined effort to catch the muggers, detectives from the Met’s Flying Squad painstakingly analysed the footage, spotting a crucial clue that would crack the case – a small sticker on the car’s windshield.

Spurred on, officers trawled through crime records to find out how many Jaguar F-PACEs had been reported stolen and outstanding, leaving them with 30-40 possible vehicles.

The team contacted each owner to find out if any of their cars had any particular identifying features.

One told officers their car had a parking permit for their child’s school – a description which matched the sticker seen on the getaway car.

This was the breakthrough moment the team had been looking for as it allowed them to discover the car’s true ‘identity’ – and track the robbers to a point where CCTV captured them meeting without their masks. 

Dramatic footage of the attack then captures the moment the victim’s father courageously sprinted towards the group of masked thugs to protect his son – battling with them as one mugger slashes through his jacket with a carving knife. 

The robbers also threatened a third person with a stun gun in the violent heist near Harrods in Knightsbridge on November 16, 2021 and forced her to hand over her watch, worth about £200, Isleworth Crown Court heard.

Moments later the muggers made their getaway in a stolen Jaguar F-PACE, with false plates waiting nearby.

The thieves were not identifiable as their faces were covered and Flying Squad detectives went through hours of CCTV footage to try and track them down.

They found the stolen £40,000 car had a small sticker on the bottom right corner of its windscreen.

This was the breakthrough moment the team had been looking for as it allowed them to discover the car’s true ‘identity’. 

Officers found of the 40 Jaguar F-PACEs recently stolen, one had an identical parking permit for his child’s school.

Detectives trawled through more CCTV showing the car and eventually they found footage capturing the robbers meeting without masks.

The photos of their faces were circulated leading to the arrests of Thomas Lenaghan, 23 and 20-year-old Ronnie Fitzgerald.

A forensic examination linked the men to the stolen Jaguar which was later found in a car park in Fulham.

Lenaghan, of Fulham, and Fitzgerald, Dagenham, east London, admitted conspiracy to rob, threatening a person with a bladed article in a public place, possession of a stun gun and threatening a person with a stun gun.

They were both sentenced to six years and nine months imprisonment having pleaded guilty to all offences at an earlier hearing on October 5, last year.

A third man, John Stovell, 50, was jailed for 18 months after he admitted handling stolen goods and assisting an offender.

Police said a breakthrough in the case came when they were able to identify the getaway car, which was stolen and using false plates

John Stovell, 50, pleaded guilty to handling stolen goods and assisting an offender

DC Robert Rodak, who worked on the investigation, said: ‘This was a shocking and violent robbery which understandably left the victims shaken and feeling incredibly fortunate they did not suffer more serious injury.

‘Everyone should be able to walk through our streets unaffected by this type of crime and that is why we are doing everything we can to take offenders like Lenaghan, Fitzgerald and Stovell off our streets.

‘This conviction was a result of a joint effort where our local team was assisted by the specialist skills of the Flying Squad to catch those responsible.’

Detective Chief Superintendent Owain Richards, responsible for local policing in Kensington and Chelsea, said: ‘In recent months we have been focusing our resources in hot spot areas where we know watch robberies have increased.

‘Our dedicated robbery team are tirelessly tracking down those responsible for these kind of crimes and we hope this case demonstrates that anyone committing these offences will be identified and brought to justice.’

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