ARMED robbery suspects accused of raiding a Great Witley garage wearing clown masks have had the case against them thrown out for lack of evidence.

Kane Cooper, Brandon Elsmore and Ryan McGoldrick had formal not guilty verdicts returned at Worcester Crown Court after the Crown Prosecution Service decided it did not have enough evidence to proceed.

The three suspects were arrested as part of an investigation into a robbery at Euro Garage, in Worcester Road, Great Witley, at around 3am on Tuesday, August 1.

Two men were alleged to have threatened a member of staff using a crowbar, demanding money and cigarettes.

Cooper, aged 19, of Meriden Road, Wolverhampton, Brandon Elsmore, aged 19, of St Anne's Road, Wolverhampton and McGoldrick of Probert Road, Oxley, Wolverhampton appeared before Recorder Sally Hancox on Wednesday (November 15).

Charles Hamer, prosecuting, said the robbers were wearing masks so could not be identified.

He said: "This was a very serious allegation where the young woman who was in charge of the service station in the middle of the night was confronted by two men in masks. There is CCTV evidence of that.

"This was a real robbery in old-fashioned terms."

A mask matching the description of those used in the robbery was found in the flat of one of the defendants.

However, Mr Hamer said: "There's nothing to say it was definitely associated with that robbery incident.

"There's no DNA evidence. There's no cell site analysis (mobile phone evidence). The crown have no evidence to present to the court."

Mr Hamer had first asked for an adjournment but formally offered no evidence after recorder Hancox said the case must be dealt with that day.

The recorder said: "It's important that those who are accused have the same swift and thorough service as those who complain. I'm unhappy to allow one week. I'm unhappy to allow beyond today."

Mr Hamer returned after making further enquiries with the crown prosecution service to formally offer no evidence and the recorder entered not guilty pleas on behalf of all three defendants.

Superintendent Kevin Purcell, policing commander for south Worcestershire, said: "Whilst it's often frustrating when matters go to court and they're not progressed, I fully understand the need for evidence to be tested and proved beyond reasonable doubt.

"At the end of all incidents like this are victims and we will continue to do our best to support the victim."

He added officers would not be carrying out a further investigation into anyone else at this stage.

* All three defendants are charged with possessing a controlled drug of class A (cocaine) with intent to supply.

McGoldrick and Cooper are charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm. Cooper is also charged with common assault.

The defendants deny these offences and will stand trial at Worcester Crown Court on January 15 next year.