A COURAGEOUS jeweller who fought off armed robbers has been praised for his actions.
“Steven Neimantas deserves a medal for everything he has gone through not only to defend his business but also for continuing to trade,” said Coun Colin Stout (Ind, Brighouse).
Neimantas Jewellers, Commercial Street, Brighouse, was hit by armed raiders, twice in just eight days.
During the first incident on August 12 last year Mr Neimantas tried to fend them off with a baseball bat but they fled with jewellery worth £16,354. Witnesses to the 9.30am raid were threatened when they tried to block their escape.
A week later, on August 19, the robbers returned with an imitation handgun. Councillor Stout said: “He did have a gun to his head and was threatened and physically hit during the incidents. So opening the next day or that afternoon sent a message to these robbers that they were not going to deter him from trading in the town even though it was in the back of his head to close. He has stuck it out which is a credit to him.”
Kiiam Kirby and Sam Hall, both 22, were jailed for 12 years each for their roles in the raids along with five others at jewellery shops and banks across West Yorkshire snatching jewellery and cash worth £831,860.50.
Katherine Robinson, prosecuting at Leeds Crown Court, said: “One man who was wearing a balaclava pointed the handgun at Mr Neimantas and shouted: ‘Get down, get down, I want to see your hands’.”
Kirby, brandishing a sledgehammer, filled a bag with diamond rings and bracelets worth £116,084 and the pair fled in a stolen getaway car driven by Hall.
She said that one of the men said: “Sorry about this” as the gang fled.
In a victim impact statement, Mr Neimantas said he considered selling his shop, which had been robbed twice before. The first was in April 2008.
Miss Robinson said: “He suffers anxiety and stress and is tearful when he thinks about what happened to him.”
Kirby and Hall were also involved in near-identical raids on three other jewellers.
Rolex watches and jewellery worth £56,000 were snatched from S Manning in Otley on August 2, and stock worth £21,385 was stolen from Caines in Wetherby on September 2.
Lister Horsfall in Ilkley lost goods worth £600,000 and manager Sam Brown was pushed down a flight of stairs as he tried to protect his shop on September 8.
Kirby and Hall also targeted Santander, robbing £22,000 from its Otley branch on August 25 after a failed raid on its branch in Long Eaton, Derbyshire, on July 18.
They were arrested on September 14 after extensive CCTV enquiries and evidence from witnesses. Both admitted conspiracy to rob.
Their barristers said the ringleaders of the plot had not yet been caught.
Kirby, of Woodhouse Lane, Leeds, was jailed for 12 years. Hall, of Recreation Grove in Holbeck, Leeds, was locked up for 10 years for the robberies and sentenced to a further two years for burgling a Leeds pub.
Judge Sally Cahill QC said: “Clearly these robberies were extremely well-planned. Each involved at least two vehicles and it’s clear that some of these vehicles were used in reconnaissance in the days leading up to them.
“On each occasion, two people went in, they were masked and had sledgehammers and on one occasion there was an imitation gun.
“Whilst I accept it was an imitation, for those in the shop at the time would have been every bit as terrifying as a real firearm.”