Sunday, 19 May 2019

Man jailed for knifepoint robbery at village shop

'The police don't care'

A MAN has been jailed for more than five years for robbing a village newsagent’s at knifepoint.

Gary Vass admitted stealing £490 and three packets of cigarettes from McColl’s in Goring high street after threatening a teenage cashier.

He was on bail at the time of the offence on October 19 having been arrested and charged with stealing cash from Purley post office three days earlier.

Vass, 47, of Reading Road, Streatley, pleaded guilty to one count of robbery and another of possessing a bladed article in a public place when he appeared at Oxford Crown Court on Friday.

The court heard that he loitered outside McColl’s for about half an hour until there were no customers.

He then went into the shop at about 12.50pm wearing a yellow high-visibility jacket with the hood pulled up and a hat in a “very poor” effort to conceal his identity.

The cashier was the only employee on the shop floor as the other two members of staff on duty were working in storage areas.

Vass said to the boy, “all right, mate?”, then pulled out the carving knife and said: “Don’t move and I won’t hurt you.”

He then ordered him to empty the contents of his till into a clear plastic A4 pocket which he was carrying.

Kirsty Allman, prosecuting, said: “The complainant was shocked, terrified and in disbelief that this was happening and stumbled backwards into the cigarette cabinet behind him.

“[He] complied but couldn’t open the first till so asked to move to another one, which he was allowed to do. He was afraid he would be hurt or even killed if he didn’t do as he was told.”

Vass also demanded the cigarettes before walking out of the shop.

He dropped £80 of the cash in the street and a passer-by stepped in to help but became suspicious and Vass ran off towards the station.

The boy pressed the panic button to summon police, who immediately suspected Vass from the description of the suspect in the Purley theft. He was arrested at home that evening. The court was told Vass had previous convictions for breaching the peace in 1995, drink-driving in 2005, affray in 2006 and criminal damage in 2008.

Jake Taylor, defending, said he had been married and ran a successful paving firm for many years but his life “imploded” following a car crash about two years ago.

He had swerved to avoid a deer and hit another car, suffering severe internal injuries and damage to his heart, lungs and kidneys which required extensive surgery and left him in severe pain and requiring medication.

Vass lost six stone and was unable to work so was supported by his wife and saw a psychologist for a while due to nightmares and post-
traumatic stress.

However, his marriage broke up and he started taking recreational drugs and gambling, taking out high-interest loans to cover his losses, which left him struggling with debt.

Mr Taylor said: “The level of remorse in this case is very high. He is extremely sorry, ashamed and embarrassed by his actions and wishes to convey this to the court.

“He is fully aware of the impact on his victim and had no intention of putting them through this.

“It may come as little comfort but in reality he would never have inflicted any harm.

“He has received a custodial sentence before and has shown the ability to reintegrate into society thereafter.

“His life seemingly spiralled out of control and he wishes to put this period behind him when his sentence ends.”

Judge Ian Pringle QC jailed Vass to five years and four months for the robbery and two more years for possession of the knife, to run concurrently. He also ordered him to pay a victim surcharge of £170.

He told Vass: “It is difficult to imagine the terror that young boy must have felt.

“He did as you asked but was so nervous that he couldn’t even open the first till.

“You don’t have many previous convictions but it’s a seriously aggravating factor that you were on bail at the time.”

Vass was convicted and fined £100 for the Purley robbery at Reading Magistrates’ Court on November 1.

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