A quick-thinking shop worker who locked an armed robber insider her shop has been praised by a judge.
Shaun Dennis threatened Carol Kimber with a knife during a botched attempt to rob her Post Office counter, Teesside Crown Court heard.
In CCTV footage played to the court, Dennis is seen hanging around inside the combined Post Office and Nisa store in Owton Manor Lane, Hartlepool.
“His face was partly disguised,” said Rachel Masters, prosecuting. “As Ms Kimber returned to the post office’s secure area, he grabbed her from behind and a struggle ensued.
“A colleague shouted that Dennis had a knife.
“It was a large kitchen knife which he was using in a stabbing motion.
“Ms Kimber suffered a cut to her arm before she broke free, leaving Dennis behind the counter.
“She shepherded colleagues and an elderly customer out of the shop, then locked the door from the outside.”
The footage showed Dennis filling a bag with money, and making his way to the door as the shutters rolled down. He smashed the lower glass pane of the door with his hammer and began to crawl through the gap.
“He was restrained by people outside until police arrived,” said Ms Masters.
“Ms Kimber said later she could have died.
“She finds it hard to believe the robbery could have happened, saying it felt like a dream.
“But she was determined Dennis wouldn’t get the money.”
Dennis, 34, of no fixed abode, admitted robbery, possession of an offensive weapon, and possession of a bladed article, all on August 7.
Andrew Teate, defending, said in mitigation: “About all that can be said in favour of Mr Dennis is he was frank with the police, and pleaded guilty.
“He maintains he didn’t cause the injury with the knife, but did so with his hands during the struggle.
“There was blood on his face, but that was his own from crawling through the door.”
Judge Simon Bourne Arton jailed Dennis for six years.
The judge told him: “This was a planned robbery in which you used a weapon and violence to target those who you knew to be vulnerable. Convenience stores and post offices provide a valuable service to their communities.”
The judge commended Ms Kimber, her colleagues, and the members of the public who helped restrain Dennis. He asked the prosecutor to write to them over their conduct during the incident.