A betting shop worker has been sentenced to 12 years in prison after it was revealed she faked being a victim of an armed robbery in Newington when in fact she played a crucial role in the crime.
The robbery, which took place on August 30, 2018, at around 2.30pm in Coral’s on Newington Road, saw Tyler McNeill, 26, and Daniel O’Reilly, 39, burst into the bookmakers wearing masks and carrying imitation firearms.
The court heard how the pair threatened Natalie Solari, 30, who was working behind the counter as the assistant manager. They demanded that Solari fill their bags with cash and told her they were armed, whilst pointing what looked like weapons in her direction.
Solari opened the safe and filled the bags with cash. They hurried her along, shouting for her to empty the till, which she did before pressing the panic alarm and hiding under the desk where she sobbed uncontrollably, according to witnesses.
The men fled the scene in a black Renault Megane that was being driven by 29-year-old Simon Bennett after bagging more than £11,000 in cash.
Firearms officers from Kent Police attended the scene and carried out enquiries in the area in order to track down the suspects. Two men matching their descriptions were arrested the same day but later found not to be involved and detectives from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate continued to investigate.
Following the review of CCTV, it was clear there were three people involved. Two who carried out the robbery and one man who was waiting outside to drive them away. Bennett and McNeill were identified on camera in Canterbury earlier that day, which is where the vehicle used in the robbery was picked up.
Their phone data uncovered that the alleged victim, Solari, could be involved after McNeill called Solari on the day of the robbery. Solari was also linked to O’Reilly.
On Friday, September 21, 2018, the getaway vehicle was clamped by the DVLA in St Luke’s Avenue, Ramsgate for lack of road tax and taken to a compound. Police found Bennett and McNeill’s DNA in the vehicle.
On Tuesday, December 11, 2018, Solari, of Maynard Avenue in Margate and Bennett, of no fixed address were arrested in connection with the robbery. McNeill of Queens Road in Aylesham was arrested in Maidstone on February16 this year and O’Reilly, of Beverley Gardens in Dymchurch, was interviewed by police in May this year.
McNeill and O’Reilly each pleaded guilty to charges of robbery and the possession of an imitation firearm.
Bennett and Solari were also charged with the robbery but denied the offences. Solari claimed she did know McNeill but had no idea he was responsible for the robbery and had not recognised his voice at the time.
Bennett voiced a different story. He told police Solari had planned the robbery and sent McNeill messages at the time telling him the safe was unlocked and that they should hurry up. Bennett told officers that although he drove McNeill and O’Reilly to the bookmakers that day he didn’t know at the time that he was part of a robbery.
Their trial concluded on Monday ,June 17 at Canterbury Crown Court where both Bennett and Solari were found guilty by a jury. All four thieves were sentenced together at the same court today (September 24)
Solari received 12 years in prison; Bennett received five years in prison; McNeil received eight-and-a-half years in prison and O’Reilly received seven-and-a-half years in prison.
Detective Inspector James Derham from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate said: “These people worked together to steal from and deceive Solari’s employer. They carried out a robbery that would have looked terrifying to the innocent and unsuspecting members of the public both inside and outside the bookmakers at that time.
“Solari claimed to be a victim in this ordeal but was caught out due to the diligence and hard work of officers investigating the case.
“Thankfully a jury saw through her account along with Bennett’s. Their gamble didn’t pay off and all four of them will now spend time in prison.
“Violent crimes will simply not be tolerated and Kent Police remains committed to identifying those people involved and gathering all the evidence possible to ensure a conviction.”