AN armed robber who was part of a gang which stole more than £235,000 in cash during a raid on a security van has been jailed for 20 years.

Stephen Smith, formerly known as Stevie Atkins, was one of three men who took part in the attack on the van which was parked at Asda, in Witham, on December 14, 2016.

At around 8.30am, two security guards were approached by two men wearing balaclavas and armed with a double-barrelled shotgun as they went to refill a cash machine at the supermarket in Highfields Road.

One of the guards was forced to his knees, while the other was told to remove money from their security van.

The attackers then made off in a BMW 4x4 which was being driven by a third man.

Maldon and Burnham Standard: Scene: A police car at Asda, in Witham, on the morning of the attackScene: A police car at Asda, in Witham, on the morning of the attack

Around one hour later, a BMW X6, with false plates, was found abandoned one mile away in Speedwell Close.

Officers found the car had been covered in petrol and a lighter was found at the scene. Investigations later showed the car had been stolen during a burglary in Tiptree earlier that year and contained DNA linked to Smith.

Detectives later found Smith, 37, was living in Malaga, in Spain, and he was arrested on May 8, 2018 and extradited to the UK.

He was charged with robbery and having a firearm with intent to commit an indictable offence.

He denied the charges but was found guilty and was sentenced today (May 24) following a trial at Chelmsford Crown Court.

He received 16 years for robbery, four years for possession of a firearm, meaning he was jailed for a total of 20-years.

Investigating officer Det. Sergeant Sarah Winn, from the Kent and Essex Serious Crime Directorate, said: "This was a frightening incident for the security guards involved.

"It took place in broad daylight at a time when there were several members of the public nearby.

"Smith thought he could evade justice by going to Spain but, thanks to some excellent partnership work between us, the NCA, CPS and Spanish authorities, he has now been made to face up to his crimes.

"The length of his sentence reflects the extremely serious nature of the crime he committed."

Another man, Joe Turner, 31, of Dagenham was jailed for 15 years in connection with robbery in July last year.