A BRAZEN gang of catalytic converter thieves struck on the doorstep of one of their victims, a court heard.

And when the motorist tried to confront them, one threatened to “smash his head in” with a metal bar, Minshull Street Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Matthew Curtis said the victim had to calm his panic-stricken wife down as the thieves fled the scene in a stolen Mercedes.

But unfortunately for Darren Sweeney, Tyler Bibby and Brandon Mongan, the court was told, police were conducting a helicopter training exercise.

Mr Curtis said the stolen Mercedes they had arrived in to carry out the theft was quickly tracked down and all three were eventually arrested.

Bibby and Sweeney had carried out the theft and Mongan had handled the stolen car.

Sweeney, 26, of Organ Street, Leigh and Bibby, 19, of Brandwood Road, Bolton, each admitted to a theft charge. Sweeney, Bibby and Mongan, 18, of Mill Hill, all pleaded guilty to handling the stolen Mercedes, which had been taken in a house burglary previously.

Mr Curtis told the court a fourth man was awaiting a court appearance over this and similar matters in Wolverhampton and a teenage accomplice had been dealt with by the youth court over his role in the theft. which took place in Wordsworth Road, Old Trafford on October 1 last year.

Judge Bernadette Baxter, who said she considered the theft to be a “professional and organised” jailed Sweeney, who had been recalled to prison on other matters, for 27 months.

Bibby, who said to have uttered the threat to the victim, outside his home in Old Trafford, was given a 20 month prison term, suspended for two years. And Mongan was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence.

Andrew Evans, for Bibby, said it was accepted it was an “ugly offence” but his client was 20 feet away from the victim when the threat was made.