Megan Preston, 24, and Steven McGregor, 25, carried out the spate of hold-ups with an imitation firearm in the space of just an hour.
The pair threatened their victims and stole cash and other valuables between midnight and 1am on March 29. But the rampage ended after brave Joseph MacMillan hauled the gun from Preston’s grasp while his friends fought with McGregor. The bandits even begged Mr MacMillan to give the gun back to them – but he refused and armed police arrested them moments later.
Preston, of Stoneyhill Road, Musselburgh, and McGregor, of Magdalene Drive, Duddingston, pleaded guilty at Edinburgh High Court yesterday to assault and robbery and firearm possession charges.
Prosecutor Hugh Irwin said the first victims, Thomas Cartwright and Graeme Fraser, were targeted as they walked towards the tennis courts at the Melville Drive end of the park.
The victims saw Preston and McGregor walk towards them and became concerned when they noticed that the woman had a scarf pulled up to her eyes and her hood pulled up.
Mr Irwin said: “The taller person – McGregor – reached into the waistband of his trousers and pulled out a handgun. As McGregor pulled the gun out Preston shouted ‘money’ or ‘give us money’. Both Cartwright and Fraser began to back away then through fear they both turned and ran. As they were running one of the accused shouted ‘we are going to shoot you in the back’.”
Minutes after the incident, the robbers targeted Joe Raffles, 20, Lewis McCrudden, 20, and Jordan Smith, 18, who were cutting across to Lauriston Place.
Mr Irwin added: “As they walked along the path they became aware of the accused Preston, who was standing on a grass area to the right of the path. As they got to her, she stepped out and said ‘excuse me my friend wants to talk to you’. As she said this, McGregor approached from about 15 feet away. As he approached them he pulled a scarf over the bottom of his face and pulled a handgun from the waistband of his trousers which he then pointed at the complainers.
“McGregor said ‘bad time for crossing the Meadows’. Joe Raffles then handed his wallet and mobile phone to Preston. Lewis McCrudden then handed Preston the loose change in his front pocket and Jordan Smith handed her a £10 note.”
The robbers confronted another group who had been walking through the park, including Mr MacMillan.
Mr Irwin told the court: “Preston stepped forward and patted down Joseph MacMillan’s body and came across his mobile phone in his pocket which she then removed.
“Joseph MacMillan pulled back and Preston then grabbed the gun from McGregor and struck MacMillan to the head with the butt of the gun. Although stunned by this, Joseph MacMillan then grabbed Preston and they were on the ground rolling about, with Mr MacMillan trying to get the gun from her grasp.”
The court heard that Mr MacMillan was able to grab the gun and put it in his rucksack before fleeing. But the robber followed the group and even asked him to hand back the gun, offering a “swap”.
The police armed response unit swooped on Preston and McGregor in Buccleuch Street at 1.05am. Judge Lord Bracadale deferred sentence for background reports until August 15. Following yesterday’s hearing, Detective Chief Inspector Gary Cunningham said: “It was thanks to the brave actions of a member of the public that the pair were disarmed, and officers were able to make a swift arrest.”
They are expected to be sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow on August 15.