Acid threat robber jailed

CAGED: Christopher Bowlt
CAGED: Christopher Bowlt

A ROBBER who threatened to spray terrified shop staff with acid unless they handed over cash and cigarettes has been caged for more than three years.

Christopher Bowlt issued the “ugly threats” to the staff at the Premier convenience store, in Osborne Road, Hartlepool, before demanding that the money and cigarettes were put into a carrier bag.

The 30-year-old, who was carrying a milkshake bottle with ‘acid’ scrawled on it in marker pen, said: “If you don’t, I’m going to squirt this bottle of acid all over you. It burns through your skin and bones in 20 seconds.”

Despite the threats, the two workers chased after the fleeing drug addict and detained him until police arrived.

Judge John Walford, sitting at Teesside Crown Court, praised the pair’s courage and blamed Bowlt’s drug addiction and debts to dealers for the crime.

He told the dad-of-two: “It has blighted your life and as a result of it blighting your life, you decided to blight the lives of others.

“It is a measure, perhaps, of the grip in which drugs hold people, who, when they are unaffected by them, can be decent, law-abiding and hard-working.

“When they are in the grip of drugs or, as in your case, in the grip of drug dealers with their evil tentacles, then they behave in a way which is not only harmful to society, but harmful to the people directly affected by their criminal behaviour.”

The court heard that Bowlt had small amounts of amphetamine and heroin on him when he was arrested on February 12.

The court heard that a short time before the crime, the unemployed window cleaner snatched a handbag from a car while its owner strapped children in the back of the vehicle.

The defendant admitted charges of robbery, theft and possessing Class A and Class B drugs, and was jailed for three years and four months.

Jim Withyman mitigating, described the hold-up as “amateurish” and said the bottle did not contain acid.

He said: “He has in the past been a hard-working man, a family man.

“He is now estranged from his family. His partner could not deal with his intermittent drug use. He knew that store had CCTV. It was a very amateur attempt by him, but that shows the state he was in.”

The court heard that Bowlt, of Keswick Street, Hartlepool, paced up and down outside the shop in Osborne Road “soul-searching” about whether to raid it.

Judge Walford told him: “You took the wrong decision. You had with you what might, in the cold light of day, have been an amateurish weapon.

“But, confronted by someone issuing ugly threats as you did, it is hardly surprising that those young people were terrified.”