ONE of the two armed robbers who raided an Alpha Omega Dairy warehouse in Bulawayo and got away with $1,035 in cash and mobile phones, was yesterday sentenced to 22 years in jail. Alpha Omega, which sells a range of dairy products, is owned by President MUgabe and his wife, Dr Grace Mugabe.
42-year-old Nicky Richardson (PICTURED) of Sauerstown suburb, was convicted on his own plea of guilty to two counts of armed robbery by regional magistrate Trynos Wutawashe in connection with the Alpha Omega robbery and another he committed nine days earlier.
Prosecutor Robin Mukura said prior to robbing the First Family's warehouse, Richardson connived with Khumbulani Mpofu, who is still at large and descended on city businessman, Tonderai Chingonzo's house.
They masqueraded as detectives investigating a case involving the loss of the businessman's firearm in 2010, before drugging him and stealing money and a firearm which they used to rob Alpha Omega Dairy on September 30.
At the dairy firm in Thorngrove, Richardson and Mpofu pretended to be customers and approached Angeline Hamadziripi, an administrator, shortly after 6PM.
"When they got into Hamadziripi's office, Mpofu produced his firearm and pointed it at Hamadziripi and demanded cash. They took $655 which was in the cashbox before they searched her handbag and stole $380 and cellphones," said Mukura.
They scaled a precast wall surrounding the premises and escaped in a car which was parked outside. Richardson was arrested on October 2 at a building situated along Fort Street and 12th Avenue after he was spotted by Chingonzo, the businessman he had earlier robbed before pouncing on Alpha Omega. In the first robbery, Richardson and Mpofu ordered Chingonzo to surrender his CZ pistol after forcing him and his wife to lie down.
From the couple, they stole a car – a Mazda pick-up – $6,000, R12,000 and a cellphone at gunpoint after drugging them with Chlorpromazine hydrochloride using a syringe. The drug can cause drowsiness.
In passing sentence, Wutawashe said it was clear that the crimes at Alpha Omega as well as against Chingonzo were premeditated.
The magistrate suspended five years from Richardson's 22-year jail term for the two robberies on condition that he does not within that period commit a similar crime, which means he will serve an effective 17 years in jail.
"It is quite evident that Richardson and his accomplice carefully planned before they committed the crime. Although Richardson is a first offender who showed remorse and did not waste the court's time by pleading guilty to the charge, his actions cannot be condoned," ruled Wutawashe.
"It is therefore the duty of the courts to send a clear message to like-minded people and accordingly a harsh prison term is most appropriate given that we have an increase in armed robberies around Bulawayo."
In mitigation, Richardson pleaded for leniency, saying he committed the crime to raise money to pay for his ailing aunt's operation.
"My aunt is suffering from cancer and I wanted to raise money for her operation. I am sorry Your Worship it was not my intention but was desperately in need of money," he said.
Mukura said on September 21 shortly after 1PM, Chingonzo received a phone call from Mpofu who identified himself as Detective Inspector Madzorere, who was purportedly investigating a case in which the businessman had lost his firearm in a robbery incident that occurred in 2010.
Mpofu invited Chingonzo to Ross Camp Police Station and on his arrival, the victim met Mpofu and Richardson who demanded to see his licence for the stolen firearm.
"Chingonzo told Richardson and Mpofu that he had left the document at his house in Morningside," said Mukura.
The court heard that Richardson and Mpofu insisted on inspecting the firearm licence and the three men drove to Morningside.
"When they got home, Richardson and Mpofu requested to see Chingonzo's gun cabinet. When he opened the cabinet, Richardson took out two fully charged magazines of 15 rounds of ammunition and placed them on Chingonzo's bed and took a photo using his mobile phone," said Mukura.
The court heard that the two men then demanded that Chingonzo hand over his CZ pistol.
"Mpofu suddenly cocked the pistol and ordered Chingonzo and his wife to lie down and demanded cash. They went on to tie the victims using a belt and a decoder cable before covering their faces," said Mukura.
They drugged the victims using an injection before they ransacked the house and stole $6,000; R12,000 and a Samsung S4 cellphone.
They took the couple's car keys and drove off before they later abandoned it along Cecil Avenue.