TWO violent crooks who carried out armed raids on security guards at banks in Witham and Great Dunmow have been jailed.

A masked man wielding a sawn-off shotgun robbed a guard of more than £100,000 at HSBC in Dunmow High Street on June 23.

Then on October 20, a second guard was threatened and robbed of more than £100,000 at Halifax in the Newlands, Witham. In both robberies, the getaway car was found burnt-out nearby.

The Metropolitan Police Flying Squad established the Rover 75 used in the Blunts Hall Road robbery was also used in north London in July.

On November 18 last year, Nicholas Wordsworth and Mustafa Murteza were pulled over in a Honda Accord with false plates in Bedfordshire.

The pair were found in possession of a loaded sawn-off shotgun, a gas-powered revolver, several rounds of ammunition, a stun-gun, a bullet-proof vest, a large hunting knife, masks and a full petrol can. They were lat- er charged with conspiracy to rob, possession of a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life, possession of an imitation firearm with intent and possession of a prohibited weapon.

They later admitted the charges, with Wordsworth targeting seven banks raids in Essex, London, Sussex, Hertfordshire, Oxfordshire and Kent.

Murteza admitted his involvement in five raids, including the Essex ones. At Kingston Crown Court, Wordsworth, 43, of Fiona Court, Enfield, was ordered to serve a minimum term of seven years and nine months and Murteza, 48, of Tollington Road, Holloway must serve at least seven years and five months.

Detective Inspector Mark Bedford from the Met’s Flying Squad said: “These sentences mean that two extremely violent and dangerous criminals are now behind bars for a considerable time.

“These were well-planned, violent armed robberies during which both Wordsworth and Murteza terrorised security guards, as well as members of the public going about their daily business, and left them fearing for their lives. In my view, it was only through luck and good fortune that nobody was seriously injured or worse. This has been a lengthy and complex investigation spanning the southeast of England.

“This operation reflects the Flying Squad’s commitment to ensure those criminals engaged in this type of violent commercial robbery are identified and brought to justice.”

DI Bedford thanked other forces, including Essex, for helping to catch Wordsworth and Murteza.

Detective Chief Inspector Josie Hayes, of the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: “Such serious crimes have a significant impact on victims and the community.

“The length of the jail terms handed out today reflects the seriousness of the offending and sends out a clear message that the use of firearms will not be tolerated.”