Stratford Post Office burglary - two jailed for inside job
TWO men who carried out an ‘inside job’ burglary at Stratford post office - and then left a clue which seemed to implicate a colleague - have been jailed.
After first denying being responsible for the burglary at the post office in Henley Street, Stratford, Mohammed Ahad and Omar Ahmed changed their pleas at Warwick Crown Court to guilty.
Ahad (24) of Milford Croft, Rowley Regis, Sandwell, West Midlands, who also admitted two charges of fraud, was jailed for a total of two-and-a-half years.
Ahmed (25) of Southbank Road, Cradley Heath, West Midlands, was jailed for two years and two months.
Also in the dock was Mohammed Hussain (25) of Station Road, Cradley Heath, who was jailed for 11 months after admitting perverting the course of justice by giving them a false alibi.
Prosecutor Jonathan Veasey-Pugh said Ahmed had been employed by the Post Office for three years in Acocks Green, Birmingham, before being moved to the Henley Street premises.
There he was employed as the manager of the shop part of the business, without his own keys to the post office ‘fortress’ area and safe or knowledge of access codes.
But it was easy for him to watch other people using the codes and to borrow the key to get to other parts of the premises – where security procedures were not always followed.
In November 2017 Ahmed recommended his friend Ahad for a job as a part-time assistant in the shop – and the two of them then capitalised on the failure to follow proper procedures.
In a text exchange between them in January 2018, Ahad said: “We need to take advantage with all this madness going on.”
The next day Ahmed was seen by another member of staff fiddling with the CCTV system and taking photographs of it on his phone to check what the cameras could capture.
On Saturday 6th January Ahmed was working in the shop when he asked a female colleague in the Post Office section: “Wouldn’t you rob the place if it was worth it?” She replied that she would ‘never be that stupid.’
That afternoon he asked to borrow her keys to get through the secure area, which Mr Veasey-Pugh said was not unusual, but he failed to return the keys, although he claimed he had done so.
After he finished work at 5.30pm, two members of staff remained to cash up the Post Office and put £84,059 in the safe.
At 11.15 that night, having left their mobile phones at the Merhaba shisha bar in Aston, Birmingham, so they could not be traced to Stratford and to help give them a false alibi, Ahad and Ahmed returned to Henley Street.
They let themselves in, using the keys Ahmed had retained and his knowledge of the alarm codes, removed the hard drive from the CCTV system and stole the £84,059 from the safe.
They then left their colleague’s keys in the premises, ‘presumably in an attempt to implicate her,’ said Mr Veasey-Pugh.
She did come under suspicion as a result, and when Ahmed and Ahad were arrested three days later they put forward an alibi that they were at the Merhaba shisha bar at the time.
Hussain, who is a friend of both men, then became involved and sent a message to another friend saying that ‘Omar got into some s**t,’ asking him to support their alibi that they were all together at the shisha bar at the time of the burglary.
He stuck to that story when he was arrested, but in a later interview he said he ‘must have been mistaken,’ but claimed that it had not been a deliberate lie.
Ahad and Ahmed put forward the agreed alibi, although there were differences in their accounts, and were released on bail or under investigation.
Then in April Ahad went into Watches of Switzerland in Birmingham city centre and bought a £9,600 Rolex watch, paying £1,000 on a credit card and signing a finance agreement for the balance, fraudulently signing a form to say he was a business owner with a turnover of £70-100,000 a year.
And in July he carried out a similar fraud, this time claiming to work for Jaguar Land Rover, at a Mercedes dealership to obtain a £37,000 car, added Mr Veasey-Pugh.
Puneet Grewal, for Ahmed, said he had been ‘a model employee’ until Ahad had joined the staff, and had not been in trouble in the two years since the offence.
Mark Hemming, for Ahad, said that at the time he was on an accountancy degree course at Birmingham University, which he has had to leave as a result of the offence.
Sophie Murray, for Hussain, who has a first class degree in quantity surveying and a diploma in accountancy, said it was ‘never in his mind’ that the false alibi would help put another member of staff under suspicion.
And Judge Barry Berlin commented: “It is so sad. I have three intelligent young men before me.”
Jailing the three after rejecting submissions that their sentences could be suspended, he told Ahad and Ahmed: “You left your phones in Birmingham, so it was quite well thought through.
“Ahmed you had asked to borrow [his female colleague’s] keys, and you failed to return them. You left her keys, rather charmingly, on the site to implicate her.
“There was significant planning and the setting up of false alibis. You exploited a fault in the security system, and you both tried to incriminate others. That was a spiteful and deliberate act to cover your own backs.”
And the judge told Hussain he had supported the false alibi with ‘persistent lies,’ adding: “This offence is just too serious to suspend the sentence in this case.”