Shop staff feared for their lives during armed robbery

Shop staff feared for their lives during armed robbery

by Tom Martin (April 2021)

Two armed robbers who attacked and terrorised shop workers in a Southport convenience store have both been jailed for eight years.

The terrifying armed robbery happened on September 10 last year when John Garnett and Marley Khan targetted McColls store on Portland Street, Southport.

A top judge told Garnett and Khan - who had been wearing boxer shorts over his head as a balaclava - that the terrifying incident will live with the victims who feared for their lives “for many years if not indefinitely.”

During their lengthy ordeal the intruders threatened to slit the throat of one of the workers and shoot him and Liverpool Crown Court heard on Thursday, April 15 that he may never feel able to return to his employment.

“It must have been horrifying and will disturb anyone who has to work long hours in small convenience stores,” said Judge Andrew Menary, QC, the Recorder of Liverpool.

“This was a robbery clearly planned where both of you went prepared to use violence and steal from this shop and at the time you were jointly armed with a realistic looking hand gun and a fearsome large kitchen knife.”

He said that while waiting for the safe to open they “quite gratuitously threatened and terrorised these two members of staff.”

And Garnett sneered at one of the victims, Ian Sutton, and told him to kneel on the floor and pray to Allah.

He ruled that 34-year-old Garnett is a danger to the public and imposed a four year extended licence meaning will have to serve two thirds of his eight year jail sentence before he can apply for parole.

Louise McCloskey, prosecuting, told the court that the robbery, which both men admitted, began about 9.30 pm on September 10 last year.

Mr Sutton and Howard Lawrence, both supervisors who had worked there for more than ten years, were on duty, with Mr Sutton sorting out the wine shelf and his colleague in the dairy aisle. 

“Mr Sutton hadn’t turned to see who entered the store but felt a heavy blow to the left side of his head above his eye. He fell to the floor before a male he refers to as ‘the angry man’ - the prosecution say this was Garnett -  pinned him down, pointed a gun at him, hit him to the right side of his head and told him to ‘get the till and safe open or there’s going to be trouble’. “

One of the men then told Mr Lawrence to lay down and he recalls having the gun stuck in his face and being ordered to remain still and not move. “Mr Lawrence recalls fearing for his life,” said Miss McCloskey.

One of the males then approached Mr Lawrence, pulling a 12’’ kitchen knife from his sock as he approached and jabbed him to the face causing a small laceration.

“Mr Sutton was moved away and Mr Lawrence was threatened that his throat would be slit and he would shoot him ‘if he had to’. 

“Out of panic Mr Lawrence pulled his mobile telephone from his pocket. The phone was grabbed by one of the males who placed it into his own pocket.

“The safe opened and the males grabbed the money inside before pushing both complainants into the staff toilet and trying to lock the door by placing items in front of it to block their exit. They were told that if they came out of the toilet they would be killed.”

Miss McCloskey told how the plan then fell apart and the victims heard banging sounds, the door bell sounding and a man’s voice shouting ‘get on the floor now’.

The police had arrived after a member of public raised the alarm after hearing shouting and the words ‘give me your money’.

The officers realised a side door was being opened and they apprehended 28-year-old Khan as he left wearing a hoodie with the hood up, grey boxer shorts on his head being used as a balaclava and black socks on his hands. 

Garnett was arrested inside the store and also found to be wearing a hooded top. Both men were found to be in possession of the £1,780 stolen in the raid.

The gun used in the robbery was found hidden beneath a crate of energy drinks and it was discovered to be a CO2 cartridge powered BB air pistol. A large kitchen knife was discovered behind a confectionery stand.

Khan, of Forest Road, Southport, pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing a knife and Garnett, of no fixed address, admitted robbery, possessing an imitation firearm and assaulting an emergency worker. They were both put behind bars for eight years each.

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