Gun-toting car jacker who targeted women drivers jailed after being caught out by a cider can

Will Metcalfe
Mark Stokes carried out a string of attacks on women drivers across Birmingham. He has been jailed for 18-and-a-half years for his crimes.

A gun-toting carjacker has been jailed for almost 20 years after West Midlands Police linked him to string of attacks on women drivers.

Mark Stokes struck six times in the space of two days in the Quinton and Harborne areas of Birmingham and left victims traumatised after threatening them with a handgun.

The 50-year-old’s shocking robbery spree started on February 4 last year in Northfield Road, Harborne, when Stokes forced a woman from her VW Scirocco and drove off.

At 5.30pm the following day he failed in an attempt to steal a woman’s Audi as she loaded shopping in the car park of Tesco’s in Ridgeacre Road – and less than three hours later tried taking a woman’s Mercedes A-Class in Faraday Avenue.

Mark Stokes was jailed for 18-and-a-half years for his crimes.

On that occasion, the 50-year-old fired the handgun – understood to be a BB gun – at the car’s window as he ratcheted up his threats of violence.

And at 10pm that night he ambushed a woman as she pulled her Audi Q5 on the driveway of her home in Hawthorn Croft, Oldbury, but fled empty-handed as her screams alerted her husband inside the home.

Stokes – who wore a balaclava during the attacks – made two more botched carjacking attempts on 6 February within minutes of each other in War Lane and then Wolverhampton Road South in Harborne.

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.

The Vectra was seized on February 7 and a handbag – taken during the first robbery – and a balaclava were found inside and seized for forensic examination.

Stokes was arrested on February 13 and questioned over the robberies; he remained silent and was released while investigators built a case against him.

A CCTV appeal helped police track down Stokes.

They found CCTV from a shop showing Stokes buying beer wearing a distinctive blue Adidas top identical to one worn by the offender.

The top was found by a West Midlands Police dog handler near the scene of the February 6 offences – and when forensically examined returned a DNA hit to Stokes. Stokes’ DNA was also found on the recovered balaclava and extensive phone analysis placed him at the scene of the offences.

He was re-arrested on June 14 and also quizzed over two house rush robberies – in Harborne Park Road and Tennal Road on May 17 and 31 respectively – in which a BMW and VW Golf were stolen by two men who barged their way inside.

Officers found a discarded cider can outside the Harborne Park Road address on which forensics experts found Stokes’ saliva – 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 (18 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.”