A PANIC-STRICKEN drug dealer fled his home in terror after a customer armed with a machete robbed him and threatened to cut his head off, a court heard.
Pill pedlar Benjamin Arnold barricaded himself in a corner shop after claiming Kevin Rowbotham turned up at his house brandishing the foot-long blade and threatened to kill Arnold if he did not hand over cash, Teesside Crown Court was told.
After handing over a £5 note and having his Blackberry phone snatched out of his hand, Arnold says he ran topless from his house in Kimberley Street, Hartlepool, and sought safety in a Londis shop, in Elwick Road.
The trial heard how shop worker Michelle Lake pulled the store shutters down and called the police for a frantic Arnold.
Armed police, the force helicopter and numerous officers filled the street after the report of a man armed with a machete.
Mr Arnold’s call to the police was played to the jury in which he said: “There’s a lad with a knife trying to kill me.
“He has a machete with him. Could you please hurry because he’s in my house.
“I’ve had to run out the house.”
Ms Lake said in a statement that a breathless Arnold burst into the shop at around 8.10pm on Saturday, October 5.
She said: “The male appeared to be scared and very anxious. He kept looking at the door.
“He was clearly distressed and just wanted the police to turn up.”
Rowbotham, 28, is alleged to have turned up at Mr Arnold’s front door just after 8pm.
Giving evidence, Mr Arnold, who admits previously dealing diazepam pills from his home, said: “He was just stood there with a blade. It was scary.
“I backed off into my house, he walked at me with the blade.
“He said ‘where’s the money?’”
Ms Lake said she did not see anyone chasing Mr Arnold, but he was out of breath as if he had been running.
Mr Arnold said he gave Rowbotham a £5 note when he demanded cash and Rowbotham also scooped around £4 in loose change with the machete blade from the top of a reptile tank.
He added: “He threatened me again. He just said ‘I’m going to cut your head off’.
“I got around him and ran to the front door.”
The jury heard that Rowbotham remarked ‘I can go down for this’ to his girlfriend in the back of a taxi shortly after the alleged robbery.
Mr Arnold, 28, admitted selling diazepam pills at the time, but said he does not now.
Rowbotham told the court Mr Arnold tried to rip him off in a drug deal at around 5pm that day by not giving him enough of the pills, known as blues, that Rowbotham paid £30 for.
Rowbotham claimed Mr Arnold slashed him across both sides of his face with a craft knife when he challenged him.
Rowbotham admitted returning to Kimberley Street later to collect some car keys from his girlfriend’s address when he said he and Mr Arnold shouted at each other across the street.
But he denied going into Mr Arnold’s house, robbing him or having a machete.
The court heard no machete was found by police despite searching numerous properties where Rowbotham was known to stay.
Rowbotham, of Colwyn Road, Hartlepool, denies robbery and having an article with a blade or point in public.