Robber targeted shop with an air gun and got away with £660

An armed man robbed a shop where he was a regular customer.

Saturday, 20th July 2019, 6:00 am
Staff at a McColl’s store thought Luke Hamill was a ‘nice man’ until he threatened them with an air pistol.

Staff at a McColl’s store thought Luke Hamill was a ‘nice man’ until he threatened them with an air pistol.

Hamill, who wore no disguise, was arrested within an hour of committing the robbery, Durham Crown Court heard.

“The robbery happened at the McColl’s shop in Wingate,” said Jenny Haigh, prosecuting.

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“It was about 7.05am and the lady assistant had already served a regular customer.

“Hamill approached the counter and asked to buy a bottle of wine and cigarettes.

“He also asked for vodka, saying he wanted a Russian brand.”

The court heard Hamill produced the air weapon and told the assistant to open the till.

“She asked if he was joking,” added Ms Haigh.

“When it became clear he was not, she explained that only a supervisor could open the till.

“Hamill told her to move along the counter to the Post Office section where she could give him some money.

“She did this, and gave him about £660 in cash.

“He left the store with the cash and the other items.

“Another member of staff saw him walking down the street and was able to name him.”

The court heard the assistant said she was terrified at being threatened, having known Hamill to usually be a ‘nice, chatty, man’.

“It has left the assistant fearful of all customers,” said Ms Haigh.

“When police called to arrest Hamill, he had drunk the wine but still had the cash and the vodka, and he was smoking the cigarettes.

“He was cooperative, telling the officers he had used a broken air pistol which was still in his jacket pocket.

“Hamill said he had been going through a bad time, and the robbery was a cry for help.”

Hamill, 30, of Lang Square, Wynyard, admitted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm, both on May 13.

Neil Bennett, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr Hamill had been drinking far too much.

“It was inevitable he would be caught, people in the shop knew him, and he wore no disguise.

“His life was at a very low ebb, his description of this offence as a cry for help may well be accurate.”

Judge Christopher Prince jailed Hamill for 32 months.

The judge told him: “I have read a letter of apology from you.

“I receive many such letters, and I have to decide if they are genuine or not.

“Your letter I regard as genuine, what you did was wholly out of character for you.

“Mr Bennett has not said a great deal on your behalf, because all he could try to do is persuade me to sentence you outside the sentencing guidelines.

“There was never any hope of that, but I have sentenced you towards the bottom end of those guidelines.”

The air pistol was confiscated and will be destroyed.