A ‘legendary’ police dog and his handler have been praised by a judge for helping to catch a gang of armed robbers who ‘terrorised’ staff at a Chorlton restaurant.
Four men have been jailed for 33 years thanks to the courageous work of PC Gareth Greaves and his German Shepherd Theo.
Mark Taylor, 28, Ashley Grimes, 31, Lorenzo Campbell, 25, and Yahya Khojani, 26, burst into The Laundrette restaurant on Beech Road, Chorlton , late on a Sunday night last April.
The gang, who had a knife and a claw hammer, threatened staff and left the restaurant after about three minutes, taking £7,000 which they had stuffed into bags.
After a member of the public reported the robbery, PC Greaves and German Shepherd Theo were on the scene at the Laundrette within a few minutes.
Theo picked up a scent and was able to track the robbers to their safe house, just under a mile away – where they were celebrating their apparently successful crime.
PC Greaves called for backup and the gang were arrested.
Judge Anthony Cross QC has called on PC Greaves and Theo to be honoured by Chief Constable Ian Hopkins for their work.
The judge said: “PC Greaves is a credit to GMP. He placed himself at risk following the trail of a number of men who he knew to be armed.
“He followed with his dog and the dog took him to the robbers’ lair.
“He did not withdraw there, he waited for the police to arrive and then his dog sprang into action.”
The four robbers struck in a ‘planned’ and ‘professional’ operation, with each member having their own role to play, Manchester Crown Court heard.
It’s thought the gang had ‘inside intelligence’ and had done reconnaissance work beforehand, as they knew the best way to enter and exit the restaurant.
The time of the robbery had also been planned to ensure there was a significant amount of money available, which hadn’t been banked over the weekend.
All the robbers were masked and wore dark clothing and gloves and they entered through the back door of the restaurant at about 10.45pm, demanding that staff hand over money.
The gang threatened staff and left the restaurant after about three minutes, taking £7,708 which they had stuffed into bags.
A waitress at the popular eaterie said she was left ‘absolutely petrified’ following the incident on April 10, last year, although no-one was injured during the robbery.
A knife was left at the scene.
Following the robbery the gang got into their getaway vehicle, a Vauxhall Astra which had been stolen a week before from Chapel Street, Levenshulme , and was being driven with false number plates.
They sped off and dumped the car on a cul-de-sac nearby, before running away through a footpath to a ‘safe house’ in Alsager Close, Chorlton.
There the gang got changed and ‘celebrated’ their robbery – but their celebrations were to be short lived.
The judge sentenced Taylor, a ‘prime mover’ in the robbery, to 11 years and nine months in prison.
Grimes, who has previous convictions for robbery, received eight years and three months.
Khojani, who was said to have a ‘good work record’ and was in a less serious position than Taylor, was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years.
Campbell, who was recruited ‘late in the day’ for the robbery, was sentenced to six years in prison.
Taylor, of, Congleton Avenue, Fallowfield , and Khojani, of Elsmore Road, Fallowfield, were convicted of robbery after trial.
Campbell, of Pullman Close, Levenshulme, and Grimes, of Hastings Avenue, Chorlton, previously pleaded guilty to robbery.
It’s not the first time PC Greaves and Theo have helped bring criminals to justice.
In November last year two suspected thieves were caught after PC Greaves and Theo gave chase in Saddleworth for more than an hour.
The pair were called in after reports of a burglary at a farm in Delph.
In July Theo and PC Greaves helped to apprehend a suspect after he tried to run off following a car chase through Hyde .
During the incident the offender bit Theo and suffered a wound to his head. The dog was unable to lie down for several days due to bruising but has recovered.
PC Greaves was also left with a split lip and a broken hand during the incident.
Theo has been previously set on fire on a job in Hyde, and ‘took a chunk’ out of a burglary suspect’s leg.
PC Greaves has even written a children’s book about his fictional adventures with Theo, named Theo and the Mystery Muffin Thief.