Notorious crook put behind bars

John Pownall
John Pownall
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ONE of Wigan’s most notorious criminals has been jailed after he masterminded a plot to rob a drug dealer.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that John “Leggy” Pownall even recruited the help of corrupt Wigan police officer Paul Fletcher, 47 - who was jailed for seven-and-a-half years before Christmas - in a bid to help him evade capture.

The infamous 51-year-old, of Third Street, Bamfurlong, was described as “a ruthless criminal” by Judge David Aubrey as he was sentenced to seven years behind bars.

In the January 2011 robbery, the target was drug dealer Michael Baker, 34 - who, alongside associate Clint Tinsley, 33, was last month sentenced to three years behind bars for conspiracy to supply cannabis and illegal psychoactive drugs.

Baker, of Keswick Road, St Helens, was tied up with cable ties and threatened by a five-strong gang. But the gang were then arrested as they left the property carrying a safe full of drugs.

Three Wigan men, Craig Barker, 26, Newton McKenzie, 32, and Lee Fairclough, 23, were all jailed last August for their part in the robbery.

Barker, of Newlyn Drive, Ashton, was sentenced to eight years, McKenzie, of Medlock Way, Platt Bridge, six-and-a-half years, and Fairclough, of Leagate Close, Wigan, three-and-a-half years.

Two other men - John Jones, 32, of Silverwell Street, Bolton, and Otis Smith, 23, of no fixed address - were jailed for four-and-a-half years and five years respectively.

Pownall subsequently pleaded guilty to conspiring to rob Baker. He was also convicted of mortgage fraud and will now have his ill gotten gains stripped via the Proceeds of Crime Act.

At a sentencing hearing, Judge David Aubrey described Pownall as “a ruthless criminal who instigated a well planned, organised robbery which was evidenced by his involvement with a corrupt Merseyside Police Officer.

“Pownall was the organiser and instigator of the robbery not the executor - but he has an appalling criminal record.”

The conviction followed a meticulous 18-month investigation by the North West Organised Crime Unit (Titan).

Detective Supt Jason Hudson, Titan’s head of operations, said Pownall’s conviction proves that “no-one is untouchable”.

He said: “This sentence sees an organised criminal known as ‘Leggy Pownall’ taken off the streets. Our commitment at Titan to bring him to justice has been determined and prolonged.

“His conviction, and those of his associates, of a robbery where they were prepared to rob other criminals of drugs for financial gain sends a powerful message that no-one is untouchable. Titan will continue to work hard to take organised criminals off our streets to make our communities safer for all.”