An armed robber jailed for a string of terrifying raids, including one in Swallownest, has absconded from prison.
Nicholas Overton, now aged 35, received an 18-year sentence at Sheffield Crown Court in 2006 for 23 robberies carried out across four counties over a two-month period. Each involved the use of a handgun.
He was described as a ‘significant risk’ to the public.
Overton, from Sheffield, carried out the raids, including one at the Top Shop off-licence, in Aughton Lane, Swallownest, with accomplice Nigel Beever, also from Sheffield, who was jailed for 14 years.
Overton was being held at a prison in Cheshire, but is understood to have been on day release although the Prison Service would not reveal why he was out of jail.
A friend of a shop worker held up at gunpoint by Overton at the Swallownest off licence said: “It’s disgraceful - what was he doing out of prison. We understand he absconded last week but details were not made public.”
“People should know a dangerous criminal like him is on the loose.”
The prison service said an investigation was taking place into why Overton was able to abscond.
A spokeswoman said: “Release on temporary licence is used to prepare prisoners for their eventual release from custody.”
“We fully support the police in their investigation and we are examining the circumstances of this case to identify any lessons that can be learned.”
Overton admitted all 23 robberies, while Beever was found guilty after a trial.
When the pair were sentenced, Sheffield Crown Court heard they got a ‘sick thrill’ from their crimes.
Their total haul was just £8,500, but their actions left some of their victims too afraid to return to work.
Heroin addict Beever was found guilty of 22 robberies and six specimen counts of possessing a firearm with intent to commit robbery, following the two-week trial.
The men were caught after their getaway car was spotted in Sheffield.
Sentencing, Judge Roger Keen QC said the public was at ‘significant risk of serious psychological harm’ from Overton re-offending and ordered he should serve at least eight-and-a-half years before being considered for parole.
Overton had previous convictions for theft, deception, possessing heroin, perverting the course of justice, burglary, and a knifepoint robbery.
At the time, Det Sgt Chris Singleton, said: “This was a particularly protracted and worrying series of armed robberies committed within South Yorkshire and four surrounding counties.
“The impact upon staff members faced by the gunman has had such a traumatic effect that several have been unable to return to their place of work.
“They got more confident and brazen and weren’t going to stop until they were caught. They clearly enjoyed what they were doing.”
“A number of the victims thought they were going to be shot and were in fear for their lives.”