«What they accomplished, in a short period of time, was highly remarkable – in a bad sense,» says Reimo Raivet, head of department for offences against persons, in City Centre police. «Never before have we faced such a series of robberies, committed in such a scope, in such a short time, in such a brutal manner.»
Robberies are exceptional anyway, for the police. However, at the beginning of last August, the city centre police station received numerous reports of it, at once. All relating to Old Town and hours of the night. «Caused us much headache, as it was immediately clear we had to do with a gang in action,» says senior superintendent Raivet.
The robbers’ handwriting was simple: pick out a foreigner or somebody showing signs of drunkenness – people walking about alone, dressed in a manner suggesting valuable possessions. At an opportune moment, the victim was distracted or attacked suddenly from behind. Felled to the ground, the victim was beaten and robbed of personal belongings.
The only way victims were able to describe the attackers was that they were young men, sportsmen-like. Therefore, the police had to rack their brains for quite a while. The first leads were gotten from robbed items, traced down by police. Then, help was provided by the Ministry of the Interior security camera, on Old Town’s Pikk Street. The camera footage showing the youths, a couple of metres away, robbing a German, thereafter walking off underneath the cameras.
Among them, the investigators recognised an old acquaintance of theirs, a drug addict Vladislav Stepanov, repeatedly bearing criminal punishments. At interrogations in police, however, Mr Stepanov was unable to specify his partners in crime. The more so that he had nothing to do with the crimes. Still, Mr Stepanov managed to tell the investigators how he got aquatinted with the Estonian boys, also revealing their names.
From here, it was not hard to catch the rest. The trio of robbers proving to be Jonas Juss (16), Erlis (18) and Risto (18). The latter having a mere 8 grade education. The first studying in a Tallinn school, known for its problematic kids. The second – in Upper Secondary School for Adults.
Being brought to police, one by one, the youths behaved haughtily and indifferently. Starting by total denial. Facing the evidence, they did change their talk.
After the police revealed the robbers’ photos in newspapers and TV, for victims to file their claims, Risto started to worry about his family’s reputation.
Jonas Juss, however, coming from a moderately wealthy family, seemed to have difficulty realising the seriousness of their crimes. For the schoolboy, they just needed money to be spent at leisure and found an easy way of obtaining it.
Erlis was the haughtiest, letting the investigators know he did not have much to tell them. Better take him back to prison – a much more comfortable place to sit than the investigator’s office, being interrogated.
At the beginning of April, Harju County Court, by expedited procedure, sentenced the youths criminally.
The prosecutor demanded three and a half years of real imprisonment. The court, however, showed lenity towards the boys with no prior criminal record, limiting real imprisonment to ten months. The remaining two and a half years were sentenced conditionally. Also, they will have to compensate for the €6,060 damage caused to victims.
The offenders have great difficulty realising what they have done – as evidenced by having appealed to circuit court, deeming their punishment too severe.