A PROLIFIC armed robber who threatened to kill betting shop workers if they did not hand over their takings has been jailed for ten years.

Gang member Yannis Young terrorised bookies across north west London as part of a gang of men who would storm in at closing time demanding money.

The 24-year-old would brandish an imitation hand gun, sometimes wrapped in a cloth or a sock, while his accomplices stand guard at the door or waited in the getaway car nearby.

He was finally brought to justice for a dozen armed robberies carried out between September 2007 and October 2009, including two within 20 minutes of each other in Honeypot Lane, Stanmore, and in Mollison Way, Edgware.

Armed police raided his Harlesden home the next day, on September 30, 2009, arresting Young and seizing an air gun and distinctive clothes which he wore to carry out the raids.

Judge Nic Madge, sentencing at Harrow Crown Court, said: “In many ways, it makes no real difference whether a real gun or whether a plausible imitation gun was used.

“To the customers and staff it makes no difference. They are not in any position to look carefully and work out if it was a real gun or an imitation.

“The robberies were accompanied by verbal threats – the robberies must have been absolutely terrifying for the staff and customers.”

The court heard how Young would point his weapon at bookie staff, demanding they first empty the tills and then open the safe.

Over the two years, the gang got away with around £11,500 from 12 robberies, having threatened to “blow their brains out” on more than one occasion.

Judge Madge added: “Staff in betting shops are honest, hard working, law-abiding citizens who often work long hours for relatively meagre salaries.

“”Given that they handle cash, they are exposed to this kind of robbery. Courts will do all they can to protect them.”

Young has been up before the courts nine times before, for the first time aged ju8st 14-years-old when he was given a fine for a botched street robbery.

Nina Crinnion, prosecuting barrister, said Young was a member of the Thug Family – a north west London gang which “concerns themselves in offences of murder, firearms, robberies, and drugs supply”.

She said he goes by the alias of 'Chessman', and pictures on his MySpace page helped police to link young to the robberies via the distinctive clothes he was wearing.

Detective Chief Inspector Harry Hennigan, from Finchley Flying Squad – the team that brought Young to justice, said he is pleased with the sentence handed down.

He said outside court: “To have a gun put to your head is a frightening experience in anyone's book.

“It is good in this case that the people did not have to come to court to relive the experience they went through.”

Young's two-year robbery spree:

- July 29, 2007, William Hill in Cricklewood Lane, Cricklewood. £900 stolen.

- October 1, 2007, Ladbrokes in Oxgate Court Parade, Cricklewood. £3,137 stolen.

- October 5, 2007, Ladbrokes in Craven Park, Harlesden. £712 stolen.

- January 22, 2008, William Hill in Station Road, Harlesden. £430 stolen.

- October 9, 2008, William Hill in Royal Parade, Ealing. £275 stolen.

- April 27, 2009, William Hill in College Road, Harlesden. £2150 stolen.

- September 15, 2009, William Hill in Chamberlayne Road, Harlesden. £1997 stolen.

- September 21, 2009, Corals in Swakeleys, Ickenham. Robbery aborted.

- September 21, 2009, Corals in West End Road, Eastcote. £500 stolen.

- September 21, 2009, William Hill in Old Oak Common Lane, East Acton. £350 stolen.

- September 29, 2009, Bloxhams in Mollison Way, Edgware. £687 stolen.

- September 29, 2009, Corals in Honeypot Lane, Stanmore. £500 stolen.