Armed robber who raided Sheffield Costco faces long spell behind bars

An armed robber who raided a Sheffield shop, sending terrified customers running for cover as his accomplice brandished what appeared to be a shotgun, has been warned he faces a lengthy prison spell.

Thursday, 4th July 2019, 13:54 pm
Updated Thursday, 4th July 2019, 14:34 pm
One of the armed robbers outside the Costco store in Darnall, Sheffield

James Allen and a balaclava-clad accomplice who is yet to be traced struck at Costco on Parkway Drive, in Darnall, stealing diamond jewellery worth £12,000.

Allen used a hammer to smash open a display cabinet and grab the contents, Sheffield Crown Court heard today, while the other man pointed what appeared to be a shotgun at staff, ordering them to stay down.

Armed police outside the Costco store that afternoon (pic: Robert Scott)

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The court heard how the 40-year-old, who admitted robbery and possession of an imitation firearm, had only been released from jail on licence less a month before he raided the store on the afternoon of Sunday, April 28.

CCTV footage showing customers fleeing in fear was played in court, with Judge Jeremy Richardson describing the look of terror on one woman’s face as being ‘almost palpable’.

Adjourning sentencing until August 5, so a report can be prepared assessing how much of a danger, if any, Allen poses to society, Mr Richardson said: “I’m contemplating an extended sentence, with an extended period of licence.”

Police at the scene of the crime (pic: Robert Scott)

Jeremy Hill-Baker, prosecuting, told the court how Allen had visited the store with a woman the day before the robbery and spent some time looking at the jewellery cabinet before being confronted and asked to leave.

On the day itself, he said, Allen and the other male drove to the shop in a blue Ford Focus with cloned registration plates before entering at around 4.30pm.

“They ran past the store guard who was checking membership cards. The second male was holding what was described as a double-barrelled shotgun, which he used to threaten others and told the guard to get down,” said Mr Hill-Baker.

“The male with the shotgun then pointed it at other members of staff to keep them at bay while the defendant made his way to the jewellery cabinet and attacked it with a hammer….

“The cabinet contained valuable jewellery, including diamond jewellery valued at £12,000, which the defendant put into a backpack.”

Mr Hill-Baker added that one employee present that afternoon had described in a statement how the robbery had left her ‘very upset and frightened’ and she had felt that afternoon that ‘the male intended to hurt someone’.

Allen, of no fixed abode, was arrested on May 7 and initially denied robbery – despite his blood being found at the scene, where it appeared he had cut himself on the cabinet – before admitting the charges.

Mr Hill-Baker said the defendant had 14 previous convictions for 30 offences, the most recent of which was for aggravated vehicle taking, blackmail and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.

Allen was sentenced for those offences in March 2011 to 12 years and eight months in prison, from which he was released on licence on April 3 this year.

Although Allen was not seen holding the imitation firearm, he was charged with possession of the weapon on the basis of joint enterprise.