A GANG who strangled a takeaway delivery driver until he passed out so they could steal just £50 worth of booze have been jailed for a total of 30 years.
The victim was left terrified thinking the three armed thugs would kill him when they threatened “to put him to sleep” and has been left too scared to return to his job at Booze Cruiser - a firm which delivers drinks direct to people’s homes - since the attack.
The phone order for a crate of Stella lager and two bottles of vodka was placed by Nicola Banks, who gave evidence to help convict the three young men.
When they realised she would testify against them, the trio - Liam Mitchell, aged 19, of Southwell Road, Wheatley; Craig Steven Moore, also 19, of Tudor Road, Intake; and Liam David Wood, 20, of Lower Pastures, Blaxton - pleaded guilty to the robbery of driver Lee Johnson last July.
They were each sentenced to 10 years in a young offenders’ institution at Doncaster Crown Court.
The men lured the driver to a false address in Lowther Road, Wheatley, late at night on July 29 and seized him from behind as he got out of his car to look for the house, before grabbing him in a stranglehold around his neck.
Ian Goldsack, prosecuting, said another one of the gang threatened Mr Johnson with a knife as he went through his pockets, while another took the drinks from the car.
The man holding him round the neck then said to him: “I’m going to put you to sleep now so you can’t recognise us and see where we go.”
He squeezed harder until Mr Johnson lost consciousness.
When he came round he was lying on the pavement while residents called the police after hearing the struggle.
Mr Johnson told officers the incident had scared him so much he believed he was going to die and he could not return to work because he feared something similar happening again.
Nicola Banks was traced through the phone order for the drinks and named the three defendants.
The court was told Mitchell, the father of a three-year-old child, had previously served a 30-month sentence as a youth for two robberies in the town centre.
“He went off the rails at a very early age, when he was 10,” said Tim Savage, defending.
“There is no suggestion the victim suffered serious injury but one has to accept the psychological harm was significant. He understands it was far more than a standard street robbery.”
Judge Peter Kelson described the offence as “unthinkably sinister” and said Mr Johnson could have died.
“This is a desperately serious robbery and I think throttling a person into unconsciousness with those sinister words in his ear was extreme violence,” he said. “You three were cowards preying on this man.”
Nicola Banks will be sentenced on Monday for her lesser role in the robbery. Judge Kelson warned anyone seeking revenge on her would be dealt with severely.