ARMED robbers who struck fear into terrified staff when they held up a Sheffield post office and a convenience store have been locked up for a total of over 17 years, writes Polly Rippon.
Shocking scenes captured on CCTV showed four men, including David West and Michael Samuel Haycock, wielding a hammer and a knife as they roared demands for cash and dragged a 62-year-old shopkeeper to the ground at Colley post office in Parson Cross.
VIDEO: Press the play button to watch the CCTV footage.
In a second attack two days later, West and Martin James Griffin, who was brandishing a machete, barged into McColls Convenience Store on Barnsley Road, Fir Vale, and demanded cash from two staff.
Jailing the trio, Judge Roger Keen said: “Small shops are particularly vulnerable to these kinds of offences. They have to provide a friendly, welcoming service and try to balance their security alongside it.
“You have no regard for the shopkeepers, assistants or customers. You just want money for drugs and you don’t care who gets hurt in the process.
“Fortunately only the gentleman working at the post office received any physical injury, but both victims have been left with continuing fear - one had to give up her job - and fear was what you were there to instill.
“When I hear you say you are sorry for this, I don’t believe you.”
Adrian Strong, prosecuting at Sheffield Crown Court, said the post office raid was at 6.40pm on December 3, 2011.
Keith Crookes was working alone when four men barged in and knocked him to the floor, injuring his elbow.
“All had their faces covered, one was armed with a hammer and another with a knife - this was Haycock,” said Mr Strong.
“Mr Crookes was knocked to the floor by the male with the hammer.”
CCTV footage shows the men knocking over a display, swearing and shouting demands for money, telling the terrified worker: “We don’t want to hurt you, we just want money.”
West stood guard while Mr Crookes was forced to empty notes from the till into a linen bag and the robbers escaped with £730.
Then On December 5, Sophie Cranwell and Zahaur Ralf were working at McColls Convenience Store when two masked men burst in, one armed with a machete.
They demanded cash and, when Mr Ralf said he couldn’t access it, they used the knife to cut the wires to one till and ripped the other off the counter, fleeing with £660.
The court heard the day before the Colley post office raid, West, Griffin and Haycock, had carried out a ‘recce’ of the store. They asked Mr Crookes what time it closed and whether they would be able to cash a giro.
When detectives viewed the CCTV of the gang’s visit, they identified West and he was arrested.
Mr Strong said the victims were all traumatised by their ordeals and afraid to work alone at night. Miss Cranwell was so scared she quit her job.
West, aged 31, of Butterthwaite Road, Shiregreen, admitted two counts of robbery and was jailed for eight years.
Chris Atwool, defending, said he was in the grip of a heroin addiction at the time and was not armed but had acted as the look-out.
Haycock, 26, of Oaks Fold Road, Shiregreen, admitted one robbery and was jailed for five years.
Gurdial Singh said he was armed but the only injury caused was a minor one.
Griffin, 23, also of Butterthwaite Road, was locked up for four years, six months.
James Baird, defending, said he had been ‘heavily under the influence of Class A drugs’ at the time and the robbery was in a ‘different league’ to previous offences.
Afterwards Det Con Kevin Smith from South Yorkshire Police said the tough sentences should act as a warning to other criminals.
“These were serious organised criminals whose despicable and selfish actions terrorised hard-working shopkeepers who provide a valuable service to the public,” he said.