Three men admit carrying out Glasgow Argyll Arcade raid
Three men have admitted carrying out a £230,000 daylight jewellery raid at the Argyll Arcade in Glasgow last year.
Jason Yendall, 29, Aaron Brannan, 24, and Jason Britton, 23, stole 21 high-value watches from Rox in front of stunned shoppers on 24 September 2014.
They were caught after two friends - Alistair Oliver, 30, and Gordon McLay, 32, - were seen wearing stolen watches.
All five also admitted being involved in a £20,000 bank robbery in Edinburgh. They will be sentenced next month.
The High Court in Glasgow heard Yendall, Brannan and Britton were all friends from Manchester while Oliver and McLay knew each other from living in Wallyford, East Lothian.
In the run-up to both robberies, vehicles and registration plates had been stolen in Scotland and England.
On 23 September - the day before the Argyll Arcade raid - Yendall, Brannan and Britton carried out a "dry run" of the route to and from the scene.
The next morning, the trio along with two unknown associates travelled from Edinburgh and targeted the arcade, which houses more than 30 jewellers and diamond merchants.
Sledgehammer and axe
Prosecutor Sheena Fraser told the court: "Four of the men got out of the car - two carrying baseball bats, one a sledgehammer and one an axe.
"One of them was also carrying a holdall. The driver remained within the car.
"The Crown cannot say which of the men was the driver and which four attended at the arcade."
The armed robbers - also wearing balaclavas and gloves - sprinted down Buchanan Street into the busy mall at about 13:00.
They immediately targeted Rox jewellery store which had expensive Hublot watches as well as Bell and Ross time-pieces.
As some of the gang took turns to keep a look-out, others raced inside and smashed a window display.
Terrified staff and customers looked on as 21 high-end watches were snatched and tossed into bags.
'Fear and panic'
Ms Fraser said: "While this was happening, members of the group in the arcade were shouting and banging on other shop windows.
"This generated a great deal of fear and panic as it was busy with public and staff from other shops."
The court heard how one worker activated a device that saw smoke fill the arcade in a bid to "disorientate" the raiders.
Some shoppers captured the incident on their mobile phones.
Just under four minutes after arriving, the gang fled with the stolen watches, shouting threats as they left.
They jumped into a getaway vehicle before eventually heading on the M8 towards Edinburgh.
Oliver and McLay were later seen in a bookmakers in Wallyford, each wearing £2,750 watches taken from the Argyll Arcade.
Ms Fraser added: "They had been given them (by Yendall, Brannan and Britton) after they returned to Edinburgh.
"They have not been recovered and were sold on by Oliver and McLay."
In the days after the raid, Yendall made a number of internet searches looking for second-hand watch websites.
The court a total of 19 Hublot watches and two from Bell and Ross were taken.
These ranged in value from £2,750 to £23,000 each. The total haul stolen was £229,601, which has never been recovered.
The Argyll Arcade was also left with a £20,000 repair bill.
The court was told that Yendall was back in Scotland just over a week later with Brannan and Britton to carry out a copycat robbery at a bank in Edinburgh.
Police meantime had been keeping an eye on Oliver. He had been seen buying four balaclavas and an axe at a B&Q store in Edinburgh.
Oliver then arranged for Yendall, Brannan and Britton to stay a friend's flat - close to the bank in the capital's Tollcross area, that was being targeted.
On 2 October - the day of the robbery - the gang got into a van used in the watch raid.
Yendall, Brannan and Britton - all masked and carrying weapons - then held up the bank after two of them jumped the counter.
They eventually fled with £19,675 warning staff not to call police.
After initially escaping in a van, they then jumped into a waiting Ford car which Oliver and McLay were in.
But, the vehicle was stopped by watching police. Cash and two axes were found in the back of the car.
Oliver, Britton and Brannan also all had money on them - including £400 in one of their socks.
The gang made no comment, but McLay claimed he and Oliver had been eating in the car when three mystery men jumped in the vehicle and demanded they drive.
Brannan's mobile was later checked as police probed the gang's link to the Argyll Arcade theft.
On the phone was a snap of Britton wearing one of the watches.
Advocate depute Ms Fraser said: "In two of the photographs, a mirror is caught in the background and a man wearing a watch is caught in the mirror.
"He is clearly identifiable as Britton. This watch was one valued at £16,000."
The court heard that all of the gang already had a criminal past.
Yendall was on early release from a five-year jail term in 2012 for another robbery.
Judge Lord Turnbull deferred sentencing on all five men until next month for reports.