A BLACK Country man who was part of a masked, armed gang which committed a string of robberies including a raid in Kingswinford has been jailed for more than seven years.

Ross Underwood was sentenced to seven years and four months in prison after the crime spree which included a violent robbery at the Spar shop in Kingswinford with Richard Howell who was jailed for six years.

The two men, with an accomplice who was carrying a crowbar, burst into the shop leaving three staff members extremely frightened before escaping in a stolen car with £8,000 worth of cigarettes.

Underwood, Wolverhampton Crown Court was told, drove the stolen £22,000 Audi to and from the home of a Dudley woman who was alone and in bed when the gang got into the property in Fox Street.

Three hooded men burst into her bedroom demanding money - having targeted the house in Woodsetton because they believed the family, who were involved in the scrap business, had cash on the premises.

The terrified mother-of-two was screaming as she was threatened by the raiders and she was pushed down onto the bed before the gang got away with a £10,000 watch.

Hugh O'Brien-Quinn, prosecuting, said the watch was of great sentimental value and it belonged to her late husband and he added that the gang also snatched a second watch worth £200 and the woman's mobile telephone.

The court was told the high powered Audi TT car was taken from a woman who was dragged from the vehicle at a Retail Park in Cannock with her 13-year-old daughter.

The gang took the Audi, which had been fitted with false registration plates, to use as a getaway car for their robbery spree and it was just days later they carried out the attack on the Spar store.

Then, nine days later, Underwood and Howell - again with a third man who had a crowbar - burst into the Co-op store in Dudley Road West, Tividale, and filled bags with £3,000 worth of cigarettes.

Mr O'Brien-Quinn said: "These were planned, professional robberies and each of the defendants played a key role in the planning and execution."

Underwood, aged 28, of Damson Wharf, Tipton, admitted robbing the Woodsetton woman of jewellery while he and 37-year-old Howell, of Carder Crescent, Bilston, admitted carrying out the other raids.

Judge Michael Dudley said the woman alone in her home had "plainly been terrified" by the gang and he added: "The fear such offences engender is dreadful."

Sunit Sandhu, defending Underwood, maintained he had not been party to any threats issued to the woman and said he was full of remorse for his actions.

Nicholas Berry, for Howell - who had been released from prison just three months earlier on licence, said he was looking for a "quick fix" for his financial problems.