A gang of axe-wielding robbers who hospitalised two people and stole thousands of pounds from a petrol station in Essex have been jailed for a total of more than 40 years.

They struck as a cash machine at the Esso petrol station in Collier Road, Romford, was being replenished on June 9 last year.

Snaresbrook Crown Court was told one cash delivery worker was left temporarily unconscious after being repeatedly punched and stamped on before the group made off with £4,750 in a stolen Vauxhall Vectra which was later found containing an axe.

The attack was one of a string of robberies in east London, Essex and Kent in which several cash delivery staff were left injured.

The men used the axe and the threat of firearms to steal a total of over £91,000.

They were convicted of robbery and conspiracy to rob and Saqib Waheed, 27, of Katherine Road, East Ham, and Waqaas Mailk, 28, of Mortley Road, Plaistow, were each sentenced to 14 years.

Darian Davis, 34, of no fixed abode, received a sentence of eight years and four months and Adam Ephraim, 22, of Lennard Road, Croydon, was jailed for six years.

Metropolitan Police officers arrested Waheed and Davis, while they committed a cash-in-transit robbery on a Loomis cash delivery at Waitrose, High Road, South Woodford, on July 2. Ephraim and Malik were arrested soon afterwards.

Detective Inspector Mark Field of the Flying Squad unit which apprehended the gang said: “This was a very professional outfit which used gratuitous violence in their crimes.

“It is fortunate that no one was seriously injured. It was only the meticulous work of the Flying Squad that ensured this group are not free to continue committing robbery.

“This operation shows the Flying Squad’s commitment in convicting organised criminals engaged in attacks against the cash-in-transit industry.”