MASKED robbers armed with a crowbar and screwdriver who stole a samurai sword in a violent raid have been locked up for a combined 17 years.

Armed trio Glen Luckhurst, 39, Sean Middler, 38, and Manuel Clark, 32, burst through the front door of a home in Hawthorn Avenue, Colchester, in February last year.

They pounced while two occupants were letting themselves into the property between 2.15am and 2.30am.

Ipswich Crown Court heard once inside, the trio “instilled fear” in the two men, shouting ‘Where’s the money?’.

One of the men was punched and struck with a crowbar, causing him to lose consciousness.

The other had a screwdriver held to his face.

After the three robbers fled, they jumped into a car driven by 47-year-old Francis Ward.

The car was later stopped on Greenstead Road, Colchester, at 3.10am, with police finding stolen items including a samurai sword and mobile phones.

Judge Emma Peters said while the motive behind the raid remained unclear, she was in little doubt it was “all about drugs”.

“It does seem to have at its root the misery of Class A drugs,” she said.

She said victim impact statements “described the fear and anxiety, the tears and the flashbacks” each man suffered following the robbery.

Luckhurst, of Greenstead Road, Colchester, Middler, of Wilkin Court, Colchester, and Clark, of Poplar Hall Close, Colchester, admitted robbery.

Ward, of Wilkin Court, admitted assisting an offender, on the basis he only realised a serious offence had been committed once the three thugs bundled back into his car and ordered him to drive.

The court heard in mitigation the three robbers had remained in custody throughout the coronavirus pandemic, enduring tough conditions.

Jack Talbot, for Clark, said his client was working as a receptionist greeting other prisoners while in custody and retained the support of his family.

Kevin Toomey, for Middler, said his client had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in 2016, with medication now working well.

The court heard he is now clean from drugs.

In a letter to the judge, Ward apologised, adding he was “devastated he could be so stupid”.

Ward said the incident had “kick started” a desire to get clean from drugs.

Luckhurst was jailed for six years and four months, Middler for five years and six months and Clark for five years.

Ward was sentenced to 20 months suspended for two years, with conditions to complete a drug rehabilitation programme and a 40-day rehabilitation activity requirement.

He was excluded from the Greenstead area of Colchester.