Sunday, February 28, 2010

Hollywood Goodfella: Gangster turned TV pundit jailed for 12 years

A professional gangster and TV pundit who wrote an autobiography entitled The Art of Armed Robbery and supposedly renounced crime was jailed for a minimum of 12 years after being found guilty today of masterminding a series of violent cash raids.

Terry Smith, 50, who appeared on chat shows and worked as a film consultant capitalising on his criminal expertise, inflicted near fatal injuries on a commuter who went to the help of an assaulted security guard.

While publishing his memoirs and providing commentary on such events as the £53m Securitas raid in 2006, Smith was plotting a series of cash-in-transit attacks that netted his gang £172,000.

Chelmsford crown court heard that during one of the raids at Rayleigh railway station a passerby, Adam Mapleson, was blasted in the chest as he rushed to help a female security guard.

Mapleson, 26, said he was walking to work in May 2007 when he saw a man carrying the snatched cash box running towards him. Mapleson was shot but survived after the bullet ricocheted off his collar bone, away from a major artery.

Smith, from Canvey Island, Essex, was found guilty of conspiracy to rob between 1 September 2006 and 30 April 2008 and conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to commit robberies.

Smith told detectives "this is outrageous" when he was arrested at his home at dawn in May 2008. Patricia Lynch QC, prosecuting, told the jury that members of the gang had been seen meeting at the Dick Turpin pub near Basildon, Essex.

Smith was asked by his defence counsel, Martin Hicks QC, about his book, which described him as a notorious armed robber. Referring to the exact phrase used in the book, he replied: "I believe the term is infamous armed robber."

He said that he had not agreed with how his publishers had promoted the book, saying it had glorified him.

He was asked directly by Hicks: "The allegation against you is that you are a serious career armed robber."

"That's not true," replied Smith. He said he was a serious crime reporter.

After being sentenced to 31 years in prison for armed robberies committed during the 1980s, Smith had claimed that he was going straight. He wrote The Art of Armed Robbery – The True Story of Britain's Most Infamous Armed Robber, published in 2003.

The book's cover shows a shaven-headed robber carrying a bag of swag and pointing a handgun at the camera. The publicity material said: "Terence Smith was much more than just another criminal. With a penchant for learning and his sophisticated clean-cut image, his tale is told with a finesse and intelligence. He is now fully reformed."

He was said to be "one of the most ­daring armed robbers of his generation" and Britain's most wanted criminal, before allegedly giving it all up for his young family – his wife Tracey and children Terence, Bradley, Jade and Sonny.

After being sentenced in June 1983 to 15 years for armed robbery, he escaped in a prison van in November 1984 and spent two years on the run. During his time as a fugitive he conceived his fourth child Sonny and committed more robberies before his arrest in June 1986, when he was given a further 16 years imprisonment at the Old Bailey.

Smith was released on parole in 1995 before deciding to go straight. In 2004 he was part of a gang of reformed gangsters who took part in a Channel 4 programme called The Heist where the former crooks successfully kidnapped a £1m racehorse called Lucky Harry.

He has also appeared on the Sky programme Inside the Perfect Bank Robbery, on the BBC religious show The Big Question and as a consultant on a Spike Lee film The Insider.

In May 2005 he published another book called Two Strikes and You're Out and gave interviews as a crime pundit during the police investigation into the £53 million Securitas raid in February 2006. He published a third book called Blaggers Inc - Britain's Biggest Armed Robberies.

Smith's brother Lenny, 52, a bricklayer from Dagenham, was cleared of charges of conspiracy to rob and conspiracy to possess firearms with intent to commit robberies.