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Balaclava car ram gang jailed
MEN from Crewe who were part of a gang that rammed and attacked a car with pickaxe handles, before trying to dispose of the evidence in a frozen canal, have been jailed.
Michael Stokes, 46, of Bradfield Road and Edward Stokes, 39, of Kettel Avenue were sentenced to two years in prison at Preston Crown Court on Friday, March 15, after pleading guilty to violent disorder.
Thomas Gerrard Stokes, 34, of Nixon Drive, Winsford and Thomas Stokes, 30, of Nairn Close, Fearnhead, Warrington, were also imprisoned for 24 months.
The court heard how an ongoing dispute between two familes from the Traveller community lead to the four men ramming a car in Burnley at 1pm on January 10.
A hearing last week was told how terrified members of the public witnessed the balaclava-clad ‘ambush’ outside Burnley Town Hall.
Richard Howarth, prosecuting, said the episode began when Patrick and Frank McDonagh were arrested over an alleged assault on Brian ‘Barney’ Stokes and Edward Stokes in Burnley.
The Stokes clan then learned that Frank McDonagh was due to answer bail at Burnley police station.
When Mr McDonagh left the station with his lawyer, Sukhdip Randhawa, he noticed Thomas Stokes in a white van in front of them, which began to follow them.
The pair then noticed a burgundy Vauxhall Omega, driven by Michael Stokes, a member of the same family.
Michael Stokes is said to have gestured that Mr McDonagh ‘was dead’, so the BMW headed towards the police station, but the Omega ‘rammed’ the BMW, forcing it off the road.
The court heard that a blue Omega car then entered the fray. It was driven towards the BMW but crashed into a van.
Four men spilled out of the blue Omega, armed with baseball bats or sticks, shouting ‘McDonagh, you’re dead’, said Mr Howarth.
The two people in the rammed BMW were forced to abandon the car and run off.
The Stokes gang also ran off, and were seen trying to throw their balaclavas, gloves and some clothes into the Leeds and Liverpool canal, which had frozen over.
Officers were able to fish the evidence off the ice and carry out forensic tests which linked them to the crime.
Detective Inspector Simon Cheyte said: “This has been a long and complex investigation and I am satisfied with the result. Fortunately no one was seriously injured but clearly this was a very frightening ordeal for the victims who were left terrified as were numerous members of the public who were going about their business in the town centre.
“Fortunately, the canal was frozen over, which meant officers were able to recover crucial evidence. I hope this case acts as a warning that the police will use all available tools to track down criminals involved in such violent attacks and bring them to justice.”