An armed robber who targeted banks across north-west London while on day release from prison was caught within hours of a raid in Ickenham, thanks in part to a Hillingdon Neighbourhood Watch group.

Sean Bradish, 46, has been given three life sentences, to serve a minimum of 17 years, at the Old Bailey today (Friday, February 21) after admitting to six robberies and one attempted robbery in an 11-month period.

His last was at Barclays Bank in Swakeleys Road, Ickenham, on March 25 2013.

He followed a 76-year-old lady into a bank at around 11.45am, before threatening her and staff with a gun. The panicked cashier shoved handfuls of money through the hatch, and Bradish put as much as he could into a bag before fleeing.

He made off with £13,135, and made his escape in a silver Mercedes.

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Unbeknown to Bradish, the net was closing in and detectives were on to him, and an hour later, he was seen getting into a minicab in Leaf Close, Northwood. The vehicle was followed and shortly after 1pm, it was stopped in Harrow and Bradish was arrested.

He was found in possession of the firearm, items of clothing worn in the robbery and the cash stolen.

Once Bradish was in custody, detectives enlisted the help of Ickenham's Hillingdon Neighbourhood Watch (HNHW) members, and pictures from their home CCTV network captured Bradish driving in the village before the raid and wearing a disguise, providing key evidence.

Retired police officer Brian Walters, HNHW area coordinator and police liaison, said: "This shows yet again the value of our Community Neighbourhood Watch working together and assisting the police where possible by providing quality images to aid their investigation."

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Detective Inspector Scott Hartley, part of the Flying Squad which was commended for their work on the operation by Judge Nicholas Cooke QC, said: "I would like to thank Brian Walters and his team for their help and support in this investigation. The final robbery was in Ickenham in March, and before that Sean Bradish had walked round the area three or four times in a reconnaissance looking for us.

"Once he was satisfied that we weren't around, he went to Barclays and got away with £13,000. Brian Walters has CCTV, and he assisted us greatly with tracing his movements around Ickenham."

Bradish, of Shoot Up Hill, Kilburn, also robbed the same Lloyds branch in Finchley Road, Hampstead, four times between April 2012 and February 2013, as well as one in Kingsbury Road. The attempted robbery was in Cricklewood Broadway.

Detectives from the Metropolitan Police's Service's (MPS) Flying Squad launched an intelligence led proactive operation, codenamed Operation Huvadu, in order bring the culprit to justice.