Great news into the PAN office yesterday from David Leigh at The Mega Agency who was positively beaming when he called to deliver this update late last night from Miami –
Mega Agency photographer Ian Lawrence has been praised by the Metropolitan Police for the vital role he played in putting a notorious gang of moped thieves behind bars.
Lawrence, 44, was working outside London’s BBC Television Centre on May 4, when he spotted two scooters speeding towards him, with one of the passengers wielding a hammer – photo below.
He immediately grabbed his camera and captured the dramatic images that allowed police to identify members of the gang who carried out more than 100 phone muggings in a 16-day rampage across the capital. On Wednesday, gang members were jailed for more than 18 years.
Detective Superintendent Jess Ruddell of Westminster Police said: “I would like to thank the members of the public and media who provided us with clips and footage of the gang as they carried out their crimes. The footage and witness accounts used helped to secure the convictions.
“On one occasion, the gang were spotted by an eagle-eyed, quick-minded photographer who took the opportunity to capture the criminals in action. The photographs were of high quality and were able to capture the distinct markings on the suspects’ clothing such as logos and paint marks.“These images were passed to Westminster Crime Squad and also appeared in the media.
Making use of the distinguishing marks and distinctive mopeds, officers viewed hours of CCTV footage where the offences occurred and were able to map the route the suspects took.”
Southwark Crown Court heard the crime spree climaxed on May 4 when gang leader Claude Parkinson, 18, two boys aged 15 and 16, and a fourth accomplice who has never been caught, terrorised Oxford Street shoppers and targeted pedestrians outside BBC Television Centre, where Lawrence was waiting for a taxi.
The photographs appeared on the front page of the next day’s Evening Standard, whose editor George Osborne was among those who fell victim to attacks, and helped police recognise Parkinson.
The court was told that the gang carried out 33 offences in the space of just 70 minutes, brandishing a hammer and a tyre iron as weapons. But the attacks in April and May were part of a wider crime-wave that at one point was resulting in 100 offences a week in Westminster alone.
Said Lawrence, who is deaf: “I saw two scooters speeding towards me and weaving all over the road. One of the guys on the back was wielding a hammer.
“They all had their faces covered up, even though they had helmets on, and I knew something was going down. I put the long lens on one of my cameras and fired off pictures as they rode around the road before disappearing. I even ran after them in a bid to get more pictures.”