A GANG of armed robbers who attacked a Blackburn jeweller with a hammer before fleeing to West Yorkshire have been sentenced to a total of 14 years in prison.

Around 1.45pm on Thursday 23 October 2008, the men entered Rahman's Jewellers on Whalley Range posing as customers. Wearing balaclavas and masks, they threatened the owner, a 31-year-old man, with an axe, hammer and a knife.

The gang, who are all from the Birmingham area, hit the owner to the head before smashing their way out through the shop window and making off with jewellery in a black Audi getaway car. They attempted to set the car on fire before abandoning it at the back of Goldhey Street and escaping in a Fiat Punto at speed.

A driving instructor, who was conducting a lesson at the time, spotted the men leaving the shop and contacted the police. He then instructed the driver to follow the suspects giving police a running commentary until they reached the motorway.

Police officers including the Road Policing Unit, Armed Response Unit and force helicopter followed the Punto down the M65 motorway towards Burnley. Officers from West Yorkshire assisted with the pursuit when the car crossed the force boundary before it was abandoned in Portsmouth, West Yorkshire, following a collision with another car. All five were arrested soon after in the area.

The owner of the shop was treated in hospital for head injuries, a laceration to his face and cuts to his hands. His wife, who was also in the shop at the time was badly shaken but was not injured.

Four of the men pleaded guilty to robbery and a fifth man, Shah Hussain, 29, of Lichfield Road, Birmingham, was found guilty of robbery after a three day trial. He will be sentenced on Thursday 23 July at Preston Crown Court.

Asad Mohammed, 25, of Newton Road, Sparkhill, Birmihgham was sentenced to four years eight months; Mohammed Nasir Khan, 19, of Walford Road, Birmingham received three years four months; Adnan Ahmed, 21, of Baker Street, Sparkhill, Birmingham also pleaded guilty to dangerous driving and was sentenced to three years. A 17- year-old man from Birmingham, who cannot be named for legal reasons, received three years.

Speaking after sentencing, the officer in charge of the investigation DS Mark Winstanley said: "I would like to thank a number of people from the Whalley Range area who had confidence in the police to come forward and assist the investigation. Their role in providing vital information and evidence throughout the case was crucial in securing these convictions."