A prolific carjacker who wore a balaclava and armed himself with a handgun has been jailed for almost 20 years after West Midlands Police linked him to string of attacks on women drivers.
Mark Stokes, of Woodgate Valley, struck six times in the space of two days in Quinton and Harborne and left victims traumatised after threatening them with a handgun.
The 50-year-old’s robbery spree
- 4th February 2018 – Northfield Road, Harborne – Forced a woman from her VW Scirocco and drove off.
- 5.30pm 5th February – Attempt to steal a woman’s Audi as she loaded shopping in the car park of Tesco’s in Ridgeacre Road, Quinton.
- 5th February (less than three hours later) – Tried taking a woman’s Mercedes A-Class in Faraday Avenue, Quinton. The handgun, believed to be a BB gun, was fired at the car’s window on that occasion.
- 10pm 5th February – Ambushed a woman as she pulled her Audi Q5 on the driveway of her home in Hawthorn Croft, Oldbury. (Fled empty-handed as her screams alerted her husband inside the home.)
- 6th February – Botched two further attempts within minutes of each other in War Lane and then Wolverhampton Road South in Harborne.
How Police caught the Stokes
- CCTV enquiries and witness accounts led West Midlands Police detectives to identify two cars – a Vauxhall Vectra and Suzuki Swift – at the scene of the offences that were linked to Stokes.
- 7th February – The Vectra was seized and a handbag – taken during the first robbery – and a balaclava were found inside and seized for forensic examination.
- 13th February – Stokes was arrested and questioned over the robberies; he remained silent and was released while investigators built a case against him.
- CCTV from a shop showed Stokes buying beer wearing and distinctive blue Adidas top identical to one worn by the offender.
- A Police dog handler found the top near the scene of the February 6 offences – When forensically examined, Stokes’ DNA was found on the top and also on the recovered balaclava.
- Extensive phone analysis also placed the carjacker at the scene of the offences.
- 14th June Stokes was re-arrested and questioned over two house rush robberies – in Harborne Park Road and Tennal Road on 17th and 31st May respectively – in which a BMW and VW Golf were stolen by two men who barged their way inside.
- Forensics experts found Stokes’ saliva on a discarded cider can outside the Harborne Park Road address – and a stash of the same high-strength drinks cans were found at his home in Summerfield Road, Woodgate Valley.
Stokes denied being involved in the offences but on Friday (18th Jan) was found guilty by a jury at Birmingham Crown Court and jailed for 18-and-a-half years.
West Midlands Police’s investigating officer, Detective Constable Lee Reeday, said: “These were shocking offences targeting female drivers, some of which were committed in broad daylight with a firearm.
“The pistol was a ball-bearing gun, not a genuine weapon, but the victims would not have known that when Stokes was pointing it at them.
“We recovered two of the three stolen cars and compiled a strong evidential case against Stokes. The jury found him unanimously guilty and I’m pleased the sentence handed down reflects the seriousness of Stokes’ offending.
“We know another man was involved in at least one of the carjacking attempts and the home invasions and enquiries are on-going to identify him.”
For advice on how to keep vehicles safe and how to protect yourself against car-jacking – please see West Midlands Police here.