Disgraced Stratford firefighter aided robberies but spared jail

A top firefighter came to the rescue of a colleague facing jail for his part in a �200,000 robbery campaign.

Russell Williams, 39, helped a gang who used fireman’s uniforms to hold up shops.

Williams, the station manager at Stratford fire station, sent a text message to a gang member warning him he was being watched.

He and another gang colleague had been wearing bona fide firefighter uniforms to gain access to safes and store rooms, where shopkeepers were threatened for cash at gunpoint.

Williams sent the message after he was privy to an internal London Fire Brigade email appealing for information following an attempted raid at an Iceland store in December 2010.

He admitted assisting an offender, but was spared immediate jail after the brigade’s deputy assistant commissioner Dany Cotton provided a testimonial for his sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey.

“Russell is an integral member of my team,” she wrote, “and I am happy for him to continue working for me when this current matter is concluded”.

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Prosecutors admitted on Wednesday that there was no evidence to support a previous claim that Williams supplied the uniforms.

Handing him a 12-month prison term, suspended for two years, Judge David Paget QC said: “Your working life has been spent serving the public. I have come to the conclusion that it is possible in this case, consistent with my public duty, to pass a suspended sentence.”

Williams, who had no previous convictions, was also ordered to carry out 100 hours’ unpaid work.

Seven other gang members were jailed for a total 50 years at two separate hearings last month.

Police estimate they netted at least �200,000 from their nine-month spree.

Colin Aylott, defending, said that sending the warning text was “a profound and significant misjudgment on his part”.

“It is described as a ‘moment of madness’,” he said, adding “It is a case where he hangs his head in utter shame from what he has done.

“It is an utter tragedy.”