Jurors deciding if a Mitcham man and a soldier serving in the Queen's ceremonial regiment carried out a string of armed robberies have retired to consider their verdict.

Grenadier Guard Kristopher James-Merrill, 20, is accused of helping fellow guardsman Dillon Sharpe, 23, raid seven convenience stores across south London along with their friend Marlon Wright, 25, during the summer of 2018.

The pair served in the senior British Army regiment in which soldiers wear scarlet tunics and bearskin uniforms while on ceremonial duty at Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle.

Sharpe, from Dulwich, has already admitted four attempted robberies, three robberies and seven counts of possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence between July 24 and 26. He is not standing trial.

James-Merrill, from Brixton, denies the same 14 charges.

Wright, who is not a soldier, from Mitcham, denies four attempted robberies and three robberies.

Jurors have heard that four shops were targeted between around 11pm on July 24 2018 and the early hours of the following day, while another three attempts were made within an hour on July 26.

Sharpe entered the first shop in Croydon wearing a mask and black clothing, demanding the shopkeeper open the safe before pointing a handgun at him.

He made off with around £1,000 from the till after a scuffle which left the victim with injuries to his face and head, while police later recovered a magazine for a pistol.

The jury was told a BB gun, with blood matching the DNA of the victim, was later found at James-Merrill's home.

Sharpe was thwarted as he tried to carry out a second raid nearby just five minutes later, Mr Coxhill said.

The prosecutor told jurors the shopkeeper was carrying a large wooden stick used to close the shutters when he saw the robber.

Sharpe took around £150 from the third shop in Wimbledon before robbing the Rocky Express in Streatham Vale around 40 minutes later.

Jurors were told a shopkeeper in a West Molesey convenience store "feared he would be shot and killed" when Sharpe pointed a handgun at him on the night of July 26 2018 and "aggressively" shouted to open the till.

But the robber fled the shop empty handed after the victim hit the panic alarm grabbed the pistol with both hands in a bid to disarm him.

Sharpe failed in two further attempted robberies in Cambridge Road, Kingston, despite pointing his gun at a 15-year-old boy and asking his mother to open the till.

James-Merrill and Wright, who are both accused of assisting Sharpe in his acts, say they thought he was running errands and collecting money from friends.

James-Merrill, who has served in Afghanistan, is accused of supplying the BB handgun Sharpe used as well as using his own car as a getaway vehicle and conducting reconnaissance with Wright.

Summing up the case on Wednesday at Kingston Crown Court, judge Timothy Lamb QC told the jury of seven women and five men: "The defendants say they have innocent explanations for being in the car, they say they had no idea Sharpe was going to commit or had committed robberies.

"Was Sharpe cruising around with his mates and, when the opportunity arose, getting out of the car, donning a balaclava, motorcycle gloves, and hood, executing an armed robbery then removing his robber's guise and getting back into the car and chatting away as they did?"

Defending James-Merrill, Nicola Merrick said: "The prosecution say Mr Sharpe needed somebody to drive him and he would have told Mr James-Merrill, he needed to rely on him so he had to tell him, but why would that be so?

"If you set it up by saying 'listen, on this night I'm going to stop off and get some money from some friends of mine' why would you need to tell Mr James-Merrill anything?

"There isn't really any need for Mr Sharpe to have told Mr James-Merrill what he was doing.

"He had a reason not to tell him, surely."

Jurors retired at around 3pm after the eight-day trial.