A trio of Northamptonshire youths who robbed convenience stories in Halloween costumes while wielding knives and claw hammers has been sentenced to a total of 27 years.
Kieran Hatch, 20, Thomas Folland, 19, and a 17-year-old boy - who cannot be named because of his age - struck at six small shops across Northamptonshire and threatened staff into handing over cash and alcohol.
Northampton Crown Court heard yesterday (September 10) how the trio would storm the shops late a night while wielding hammers and a distinctive 12-inch knife.
They disguised themselves with Halloween masks and motorcycle helmets and held staff at knifepoint until they opened the till.
The harrowing effects of the robberies on one member of staff were read out in court in a victim impact statement.
She told police: "I have been left feeling scared and in constant fear of being recognised by the offenders.
"I feel scared in my own home. For the first few days after the robbery, I was unable to go outside the house or sleep. I just kept crying and crying for no reason. I kept having nightmares about men in balaclavas.
"Why do these offenders feel they have the right to make me feel this way?"
The spree of armed robberies took place between late March and early April this year at six stores in Wellingborough, Irthlingborough and Rushden.
The trio escaped on each white transit van - until one shopkeeper activated his shop alarm during their last raid.
The police arrived and chased the van down until it pulled over, at which point the 17-year-old fled the van. He was soon caught by police dogs.
The three later pleaded guilty to conspiracy to robbery.
In sentencing, Her Honour Judge Adrienne Lucking said: "these offences were committed for money, cigarettes, alcohol and excitement.
"I have heard how your offending had a devastating impact one of your victims who no longer feels safe in her home or at work.
"These offences are so serious they can only be met with an immediate custodial sentence."
Each other defendants was sentenced to nine years each in a youth offenders institute.