29th Jun, 2022

Violent robbery of Coventry designer clothes shop boss lands ex-colleague and Solihull businessman in jail

AN ‘inside man’ who passed on information which led to his boss at a Coventry designer clothes shop being violently robbed of £40,000 Christmas takings has been jailed.

Reece Smallwood of Solihull had denied conspiring to rob David Godfrey, owner of Chameleon Menswear in the West Orchard Shopping Centre.

But on the second day of his trial at Warwick Crown Court Smallwood, manager of one of the two Chameleon shops at the time, pleaded guilty.

He entered his plea on the basis that he had been under pressure to tell the men who staged the robbery when the takings were being taken to the bank, and was getting nothing himself.

That was rejected by Judge Barry Berlin after hearing that just two weeks after the snatch, which left Mr Godfrey badly injured on the ground, Smallwood planned to buy a £6,000 Rolex.

Smallwood (25) of Moredown Avenue, Solihull, who now runs his own tailoring business with clients who include boxers and reality TV celebrities, was jailed for six years and eight months.

Prosecutor Nicholas Smith said Chameleon Menswear was ‘an up-market smart clothing shop’ owned by Mr Godfrey, which operates from two premises in the West Orchard shopping centre.

On December 28, 2016, having not done any banking the previous day, Mr Godfrey left with around £40,000 in a sports bag to pay it in at Barclays Bank in High Street.

A stolen Mercedes on false number plates, which had reversed into a side street a couple of minutes earlier, pulled away and turned into High Street.

One of the occupants, believed to be a man called James Stokes, jumped out, ran up behind him and barged him into a wall before snatching the bag from him.

CCTV cameras showed the incident, the robber jumping back in to the car and it speeding away.

Mr Godfrey was later found to have suffered two cracked vertebra, a broken shoulder bone and a punctured lung.

Smallwood fell under suspicion after police officers investigating the robbery found he had made a series of calls and texts to Stokes in the lead-up to the robbery.

And when Stokes, who has since absconded and is believed to have fled to the continent, was arrested, cell-site analysis showed the location of his phone matched that of the Mercedes as it moved into position and later sped away.

Smallwood insisted he had ‘too much respect for Mr Godfrey’ to have been involved.

When he changed his plea, he also claimed it was originally going to be a fake robbery, in the belief he would have been taking the money to the bank, and that when Mr Godfrey said he would do it himself, he was too frightened not to still tip them off.

His barrister Graham Arnold argued: “Yes, his involvement is key, but it has the hallmarks of someone who has been located and used, and there is some degree of coercion.

“It has elements of someone who was naïve about what he was getting into.. He deeply regrets what happened to Mr Godfrey.

“At the time he was 22. He’s now a self-employed bespoke tailor to people including boxers, reality TV stars and Sky sports presenters. He has their trust and goes to their homes to measure them.

“He’s been in OK magazine last week, and has 22 fittings lined up, and he has earning of £1500 to £2,000 a week.”

But rejecting Smallwood’s basis of plea, Judge Berlin said: “This was a serious, well-planned and professional robbery, and the defendant was clearly a significant cog in the conspiracy.

“I find his evidence to be utterly incredible. He was ‘still up for it,’ as he said twice [in his evidence]. I don’t believe he was threatened. He was well up for this conspiracy.

“… He likes good things, expensive things, that’s the sort of person he is.. You did it for money.”

During the hearing Mr Smith commented: “I’d like to take the opportunity to thank Dc Richard Elliott and his colleagues. This was by no means an easy investigation.”

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