Four men involved in a robbery and firearms plot in North Yorkshire have been jailed.

The gang was linked to an organised crime group operating in the Harrogate area, York Crown Court heard.

They were involved in a plot to rob a man known to them of £70,000 between Friday, January 6, and Monday, January 9, last year.

Describing the gang’s actions, the Recorder of York, Judge Sean Morris said: “This was gangsterism.”

“This was a serious planned robbery with some sophistication,” he added.

They obtained a sawn-off shotgun which the judge said “could have killed someone”.

“People who engage in street warfare with sawn off shotguns can only expect a serious sentence,” he warned.

Darlington and Stockton Times: The sawn-off shotgun recovered by policeThe sawn-off shotgun recovered by police (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

Rivers Lee Wilson, 23, of St Johns Walk, Bridlington, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon. He was jailed for 10 years and two months.

William Fuller-McMillan, 24, of HMP Hull, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery and possession of a prohibited weapon. He was jailed for 10 years and eight months.

William Henley Davey, 20, of HMP Hull, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery. He was jailed for three years and six months. He was also banned from driving and will be banned for two years when he is released from jail for separate charges of dangerous driving, driving whilst disqualified and driving without insurance.

Philip Dean Wilson, 45, of Nora Avenue, Knaresborough, pleaded guilty to assisting an offender. He was jailed for 19 months.

£70,000 robbed but some of it belonged to rival gang

Rivers Wilson, Fuller-McMillan and two other gang members found the victim and took him using force, the court heard.

They knew he had £10,000 cash at his mother’s home and another £10,000 at his grandmother’s home, both in Harrogate.

The victim phoned his mother and told her to get all the money he had together, said Rachael Landin prosecuting.

His mother said he sounded “terrified”, she added.

Davey attended both properties to recover the money while the victim was held in a car.

Philip Wilson allowed his car to be used to kidnap the victim and commit the offence. Following the kidnap Philip Wilson arranged for the disposal of his vehicle to destroy any forensic evidence.

The victim’s mother saw Davey outside her home. He told her that her son was being held in a car against his will with “three or four blokes” with weapons, Ms Landin said.

She went into the home, collected all the money, and gave it to Davey.

Davey then went to the victim’s grandmother’s home.

He went into the victim’s bedroom and got more money.

The grandmother found him there holding a medium sized roll of bank notes, the court heard.

She asked what he was doing and was told her grandson was being held in a car.

Davey told her if she phoned the police they would hurt him, Ms Landin said.

She did not speak to the police until the victim’s father made contact.

She was frightened for her safety, the court heard.

The total sum of the money stolen was £70,000.

But the men later realised that some of the money belonged to a rival gang operating in West Yorkshire.  

“That’s the problem when you swim in shark infested waters. You get bitten,” Judge Morris said.

Armed police swoop and recover gun

Rivers Wilson, Fuller-McMillan and another gang member arranged to source a sawn-off shotgun and live ammunition. They then jointly sourced the firearm and ammunition to cause fear to those who sought retribution having had their cash stolen by the gang.

A police helicopter and armed officers swooped on the gang as they were travelling with the shotgun and ammunition.

Officers stopped one of the vehicles and detained three gang members – including Rivers Wilson and Fuller-McMillan.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Footage from the police helicopter as armed officers swoop on the gangFootage from the police helicopter as armed officers swoop on the gang (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

Rivers Wilson, Fuller-McMillan and another gang member were ordered to get out the vehicle at gun point and were arrested on suspicion of conspiring to kidnap.

Both Rivers Wilson and Fuller-McMillan’s vehicles were forensically examined, and a long package was recovered from the back seat of Fuller McMillan’s vehicle. It contained a sawn-off shotgun, with four live shotgun cartridges.

The shotgun was heavily wrapped in a bin bag and paper.

Darlington and Stockton Times: William Fuller-McMillan being arrested after being stopped by armed policeWilliam Fuller-McMillan being arrested after being stopped by armed police (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

In a further search, seven more shotgun cartridges were found wrapped in a balaclava within a boxing glove in the vehicle.

The shotgun was found to be faulty.

When it was in controlled conditions and both barrels were loaded it went off without the trigger being pulled, the court heard.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Armed police swoop on the gangArmed police swoop on the gang (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

Faulty gun 'could have killed someone' - judge

Judge Morris said if the gun had gone off in that way while in the group’s possession it “could have killed someone”.

He described the gun as “one of the most lethal weapons you can possess”.

Judge Morris said the men would have been aware of the damage the weapon was capable of, adding: “It’s horrendous.”

The stolen £70,000 has not been seized by police, which the judge said was “a matter for another day”.

After the hearing, Detective constable Helen Quaife, of North Yorkshire Police’s Serious Organised Crime Unit, said: “We have seen nationally how the use of weapons used by feuding gang members can devastate families and communities. 

“This type of crime will not be tolerated in North Yorkshire. The sawn-off shotgun was viable and along with its ammunition was intended to be used. 

“This investigation was conducted meticulously with a large number of inquiries conducted dealing with witnesses, forensics, CCTV and specialist expert evidence.

“The sentences imposed on these gang members illustrates just how serious these offences are taken.

“I hope this will be a warning to others who think the use of weapons will be tolerated within our communities. We will intervene, and people will be punished, to keep our communities safe.”

For Rivers Wilson, Jeremy Hill-Baker, defending, said he had been living in Bridlington since his release from bail in July last year.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Rivers Lee WilsonRivers Lee Wilson (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

During that time he had been working and not causing problems, Mr Hill-Baker said.

For Fuller-McMillan, Vincent Blake-Barnard, defending, said he worked as a joiner and had a partner and supportive family.

Darlington and Stockton Times: William Fuller-McMillanWilliam Fuller-McMillan (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

Mr Blake-Barnard said Fuller-McMillan accepted “full ownership” for his part in the robbery and firearm plot and said the group got themselves into a situation more complicated than they expected.

He added that Fuller-McMillan was “remorseful” for what took place.

For Davey, Adam Keenaghan, defending, said he was young and immature.

Darlington and Stockton Times: William Henley DaveyWilliam Henley Davey (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

He added that he was not someone “without hope for rehabilitation”.

A letter read from Davey’s mother to the court said his arrest was a “great shock” to the family.

For Phillip Wilson, Ben Campbell, defending, said he had 18 previous convictions starting from 1998 but had not committed an offence since 2015.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Philip Dean WilsonPhilip Dean Wilson (Image: North Yorkshire Police)

He said Wilson was a grandfather who had turned his attention to family life.

“There is a desire on his part to commit to a pro-societal attitude and contribute,” Mr Campbell said.