Twelve hoodlums, dubbed ‘The Dirty Dozen’, were today convicted of organising a dramatic double breakout from a Salford prison van.
The gang used a sawn-off shotgun, axe and a sledgehammer in the horror raid, who used mobile phones INSIDE their prison cell to plan their amazing escape.
Prison inmates Ryan MacDonald, 20, and Stevie McMullen, 32, and ten accomplices were ordered to stand trial over the dramatic escape.
Today at Minshull Street Crown Court, McMullen and MacDonald were both convicted of conspiracy to possess an imitation firearm after a two month trial held amid armed security.
Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to escape at earlier hearings.
Eight other men and two women were found guilty of a range of offences including conspiracy to escape, possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate, encouraging or assisting the commission of an offence, perverting justice and firearms offences.
All 12 defendants will be sentenced on April 28.
MacDonald and McMullen had been broken out of a prison van at gunpoint on April 30 last year whilst they were on their way to face court in the Manchester rush hour.
On the day of the breakout, McMullen was due to face trial charged with conspiracy to kidnap, conspiracy to rob, conspiracy to commit arson and conspiracy to possess a firearm.
MacDonald was due to be sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit robbery after he was charged following a dramatic police chase in Salford.
A gang of masked men tracked the van before blocked it with a green Saab car in the middle of Regent Road, Salford and threatened a guard with a sawn-off shotgun, axe and sledgehammer before smashing the windows of the vehicle.
The two inmates then leapt from the truck and all five jumped back into the Saab car which was dumped just yards away down the street.
Three of the gang escaped in another car whilst the other two sped off on a motorbike. Both escaped inmates were recaptured a few days later after a nationwide manhunt.
Inquiries revealed the plot had been masterminded behind bars using mobile phones which had been smuggled into Altcourse jail in Liverpool.
On the day of the escape itself, MacDonald had hidden a BMW key fob mobile phone which he used to keep contact with the other conspirators sending texts from the van saying: ”get on me ASAP, don’t forget car key”.
His lawyer was later arrested and jailed after it emerged she had swapped text messages with him as he used one of the smuggled phones in prison – although she knew nothing of the escape.
The court heard the entire escape was orchestrated from prison by MacDonald and McMullen who were both on remand at the privately-run jail.
MacDonald had brazenly been using one of the smuggled phones to post messages on his Facebook page in the weeks before the escape.
The court was told three friends of the men attacked the GEOAmey prison van at around 9am.
GUILTY: Stevie McMullen and Ryan MacDonald were both sprung in the attack
MacDonald and McMullen had not been handcuffed inside the van as ironically ”officers took the view they were not an escape risk”.
The pair were then whisked away to safe houses on a stolen motorbike and a rented Ford Fiesta respectively.
McMullen was arrested on May 5 in a red Nissan Juke driving up the M6 near Lancaster and MacDonald was captured by police 10 days after the ambush at a house – 150 yards from the scene of the incident.
Joanne Cunliffe, Temporary Deputy Head of North West Complex Casework Unit said after the case: “Ryan MacDonald was the driving force behind the conspiracy to escape.
”He orchestrated the plan alongside Stevie McMullen using mobile phones from their prison cells.
“Telephone evidence showed that the conspirators organised the mechanics of the escape up until the early hours of that day.
”Three of them armed themselves with a sawn-off shotgun, a sledgehammer and an axe which they used to threaten and attack the driver, whilst the others played their part in transporting and hiding them.
“We have worked closely with Greater Manchester Police to piece together the complex evidence and build a strong case against the defendants.
“All the defendants in this case thought that they were above the law, but have now been brought to justice for their actions. Two dangerous men have also been taken back off our streets where they will no longer remain a threat to the public.”