Two of Queen's Grenadier Guards performed seven armed robberies in three days, court hears

Telegraph Reporters
Grenadier Guard Kristopher James-Merrill outside Kingston Crown Court, south west London, where he is on trial alongside Grenadier Guard, Dillon Sharpe, and Marlon Wright, who are charged with a spate of robberies and attempted robberies across south west London in July 2018 - PA

Two soldiers serving in the regiment that conducts ceremonial duties for the Queen carried out a string of armed robberies across south London, a court has heard.

Grenadier Guards Kristopher James-Merrill, 20, and Dillon Sharpe, 23, are alleged to have raided seven convenience stores with their friend Marlon Wright, 25, between July 24 and 26 2018.

Their regiment is one of the most senior in the British Army with soldiers recognised by the scarlet tunic and bearskin uniforms they wear while on ceremonial duty at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

Sharpe, disguised in black clothing, a hood, gloves and a mask, threatened the shopkeepers with a BB handgun, demanding they hand over cash.

James-Merrill is accused of supplying the weapon, using his Mercedes A-Class as a getaway car, and conducting reconnaissance with Wright.

Kingston Crown Court heard one shopkeeper feared he would be shot and killed, while another was left bloodied with wounds to his head and face during the three-day spree.

Marlon Wright outside Kingston Crown Court, south west London, where he is on trial alongside Grenadier Guard Kristopher James-Merrill charged with a spate of robberies and attempted robberies across south west London in July 2018. Credit: PA

But four of the attempted raids failed and Sharpe left empty handed after workers fought back.

James-Merrill, a serving soldier from Brixton, south-west London, arrived at Kingston Crown Court on Monday with a military medal pinned to his dark blue suit, which he wore with a white shirt, striped tie and glasses.

He and Wright, from Mitcham, also in south-west London, deny four attempted robberies, three robberies and seven counts of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Sharpe, from Dulwich, south-east London, has previously pleaded guilty to all of the 14 charges and is not standing trial, the jury was told.

Prosecutor Fraser Coxhill said: "He therefore admits being the male who entered the shops wielding a handgun.

"There is no dispute these defendants are known to each other.

"Mr Sharpe and Mr James-Merrill were at the time serving guardsmen in the British Army and Mr James-Merrill is a serving Grenadier Guard.

"Marlon Wright was good friends with them both."

Dillon Sharpe

The court heard four shops were targeted between around 11pm on July 24 2018 and the early hours of the following day, while another three attempts were made within an hour on July 26.

Sharpe entered the first shop in Croydon wearing a mask and black clothing, demanding the shopkeeper open the safe before pointing a handgun at him.

He made off with around £1,000 from the till after a scuffle which left the victim with injuries to his face and head, while police later recovered a magazine for a pistol.

The jury was told a BB gun, with blood matching the DNA of the victim, was later found at James-Merrill's home.

Sharpe was thwarted as he tried to carry out a second raid nearby just five minutes later, Mr Coxhill said.

The prosecutor told jurors the shopkeeper was carrying a large wooden stick used to close the shutters when he saw the robber.

"He instinctively ran towards him in an attempt to chase him off and Mr Sharpe ran out of the shop," he said.

Sharpe took around £150 from the third shop in Wimbledon before robbing the Rocky Express in Streatham Vale around 40 minutes later.

Jurors were told a shopkeeper in a West Molesey convenience store "feared he would be shot and killed" when Sharpe pointed a handgun at him on the night of July 26 2018 and "aggressively" shouted to open the till.

But the robber fled the shop empty handed after the victim hit the panic alarm grabbed the pistol with both hands in a bid to disarm him.

Sharpe failed in two further attempted robberies in Cambridge Road, Kingston, despite pointing his gun at a 15-year-old boy and asking his mother to open the till.

The police probe involved a search of the Lille Barracks in Aldershot, while investigators linked James-Merrill's car to the crime.

Other evidence of his and Wright's involvement is said to come from CCTV footage and the location data of their mobile phones.

The court heard James-Merrill and Wright may admit to being present at some of the scenes but claim they did not knowingly participate in the robberies, which they say were carried out by Sharpe alone.

But Mr Coxhill said: "While they may not have entered the shop or physically carried the gun, the law states they may be guilty of the crime even if it was carried out by another person."

He added: "In this case the prosecution allege that Mr James-Merrill and Mr Wright knowingly played crucial roles in these offences."