Matthew Ferry, 24, held up Laing in Frederick Street with a replica gun before stealing 27 designer watches and hijacking a taxi.
Ferry dropped three of the timepieces in his desperate getaway as he clambered into a private hire car in Hanover Street and held a student passenger hostage as he ordered the driver to speed through red lights towards Royston.
Three days later, armed police raided the home he shared with his grandmother in Chesser – and were stunned to find a US gangland-style MAC-10 machine gun alongside the replica pistol.
Officers also seized ammunition for the deadly weapon and a stash of heroin worth around £50,000.
CCTV footage of the shocking heist was played to the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, showing the moment Ferry turned up at the jewellery shop at opening time with his face masked by a scarf and his head covered by a hood.
The images show staff opening the doors to Ferry, who then pulled a gun from his waist belt and pointed it at terrified shop workers. The staff then went into the window display to hand over the watches.
Advocate depute Alex Prentice QC said Ferry repeatedly threatened the shop assistants to put the watches in his rucksack or he would shoot.
Managing director Jonathan Payne heard the commotion from upstairs and ran out another entrance while asking a colleague to call police.
When Ferry fled the store just minutes later, Mr Payne pursued him down Rose Street. He enlisted a passer-by to take a picture of Ferry as he got into the passenger seat of a Capital Cars private hire cab.
The drama continued when Ferry took out the fake gun in the taxi and told the driver – who had just picked up a young passenger – to “f****** move” and threatened to shoot him.
The driver – who had served in the TA – saw Ferry cock the gun, which he feared was real, and did a U-turn. When he reached a red light, Ferry said: “Go on to the other side of the road or I’ll shoot you.”
Ferry warned the driver and his passenger not to tell police about his whereabouts when they dropped him off at Royston Mains Crescent, or he would get his “associates to track them down and harm them”.
On Wardieburn Place, Ferry then flagged down another private hire taxi driver, who mistakenly thought he was a booked fare.
Unemployed Ferry – who was agitated and constantly making calls on two mobile phones – asked him to drive to Straiton. He was dropped off at McDonald’s and police officers later recognised Ferry on CCTV footage from the restaurant, leading to his arrest.
Mr Prentice said the first driver was off work for a month as he recovered from the trauma. He added: “This distressing matter has had a profound effect on the staff [at Laing]. Several staff members required counselling.”
Of the watches that were stolen – 22 Rolexes, two Cartiers and three Panerai timepieces worth more than £233,160 – only the three that were dropped were recovered.
The extensive police raid at Chesser Grove, where Ferry lived with his brother and 77-year-old grandmother, found half a kilogram of heroin.
Scales with traces of heroin and £3725 in cash were also seized, alongside the semi-automatic machine gun, replica handgun and ammunition found beneath a coffee table. A bag of heroin was also found hidden under the bed in Ferry’s cell after he was detained.
The court was shown footage of a ballistics expert at the Scottish Crime Campus at Gartcosh test-firing the MAC-10 submachine gun, which has been used by US and UK special forces. The deadly bullets completely penetrated a ballistic soap, leaving a 28cm deep hole.
Mr Prentice said: “The gun serial number had been erased. It was in good working order. There had been some modifications.”
The court heard that Ferry had a string of previous convictions for offences including housebreaking, car theft, crimes of violence, possession of weapons including an axe, assault to injury and drugs.
Ferry admitted committing the armed robbery, assaulting three Laing staff members and abducting and assaulting the taxi driver and passenger between Hanover Street and Royston Mains Crescent on March 2.
He also pleaded guilty to possessing the firearms, ammunition and the Class A drugs at Chesser Grove on March 5. All offences were committed while he had six outstanding bail orders.
Defence counsel Jack
Davidson QC said that while his client recognised that he had committed “very serious charges”, he had not caused any physical harm.
Mr Davidson said: “He feels really bad about how the public were affected and asked me to apologise to them via the court.”
He stressed that the imitation gun was not loaded, adding: “This was not the most sophisticated execution of a robbery, particularly in terms of the aftermath. The circumstances would suggest that there was no proper getaway strategy.”
Lord Glennie told Ferry: “It’s clear from the victim impact statement that it’s had a lasting effect on the taxi driver.”
He added: “It’s a high powered, automatic firing gun, clearly deadly if used in anger. There’s no excuse for possession. Offences of violence of the kind perpetrated by you cannot be tolerated.”
The judge said he would have jailed Ferry for 17-and-a-half years had it not been for his early guilty plea, reducing the jail time to 13 years.
A relative shouted “love you son” from the public gallery as he was led down to the cells.
It is not clear how Ferry sourced the MAC-10, however, he is understood to have links to organised criminals well-known to police. Such firearms can be obtained through sources, including the “dark web”, an online network used by criminals to sell guns, drugs and post child pornography.
Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Houston hailed a “good result”. He said: “We have got
someone who has put staff and members of the public in a real state of fear and a really terrifying situation.
“I can’t underestimate how terrible an experience it’s been for the public and the taxi driver, who was just doing his job. Thankfully this ended without any physical injury, but I’m sure he’s been conscious of it.
“Firearms incidents are not common, but for such a weapon to be in the hands of someone is concerning.”
THIEVES AIM HIGH IN LONG LIST OF EXPENSIVE RAIDS
A PREVIOUS raid at Laing in May 2013 saw three Rolex watches worth a combined £50,000 stolen.
In June 2014, Hamilton and Inches was raided by a gang armed with machetes and axes who stole more than £580,000 of watches and jewellery.
Getaway driver Michael Hood was found guilty of the George Street robbery in March, following a trial.
And in August 2014, thieves made a failed attempt to steal up to £1 million of precious diamonds from Goodwins in Queensferry Street.
A Rolex watch worth more than £18,000 was taken during a smash-and-grab raid on city pawnbrokers Duncanson and Edwards in January this year.
The robbery came after a heist at nearby Rox in January 2013, where gems worth £730,000 were stolen.
Owner’s relief after trial
MICHAEL Laing OBE, chairman and owner of Laing Edinburgh, said: “We are thankful that the individual who appeared in court yesterday pleaded guilty to the charges brought against him following the robbery at our Frederick Street store in March.
“It was a traumatising experience for all of our staff at the time of the incident and thankfully we can now put it all behind us.
“We have introduced highly sophisticated security measures and heightened protocols in our store to deal with incidents such as this robbery.
“However, it’s extremely reassuring that the spate of robberies at jewellers across Scotland over the last couple of years have resulted in arrests and custodial sentences.
“Police Scotland should be commended for their efforts, and with regards to our particular incident we would like to acknowledge their support throughout the whole process.”