‘Cry for help’ Hatfield robber jailed

A DRUG addict who robbed a bookmakers for a third time as a “cry for help” has been jailed.

Brian Woods handed over a note demanding cash and claiming he had a gun to assistant Asim Akram, who was working behind the counter of Ladbrokes in Crawford Road, Hatfield, on Wednesday, August 25.

The 43-year-old barged his way past the counter as the terrified worker led him to a safe in the back, St Albans Crown Court heard on Friday.

Prosecutor Sally Mealing-McLeod said Woods pulled a piece of paper out and laid it on the counter. It read: “Do not shout or make any noise.

“I have got a gun. Give me all the money you have.”

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Mr Akram tried to lock the door to the shop floor, but Woods pulled it open and walked towards the safe, escaping with more than �1,400 in cash.

He was spotted by a PCSO and arrested coming out of a nearby flat when other officers arrived.

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Woods had already served two long prison sentences for robbery.

In 2002 he entered a shop holding a “loaded syringe” and thrust it towards a cashier before escaping with the takings.

He also robbed Parsons bookmakers, before Ladbrokes took over the premises, in an almost identical way, passing over a note saying “I have a gun” and demanding cash.

Simon Livingstone, defending, said Woods wanted to go back to prison.

The robbery was an “educated decision” taken to help combat his long-standing heroin and crack cocaine addiction.

Mr Livingstone said Woods’ note added he “was desperate” and he apologised throughout the robbery.

Woods, of Goldings House, Hatfield, found himself in a polarised position between “suicide or going back inside” after being told he would have to wait for help beating his addiction, the court heard.

He voluntarily helped educate youngsters about the dangers of drugs and planned to study for a psychology degree in prison.

Woods was sentenced to four years.

Judge Bright QC told him: “In my judgement because of your record your sentence would have a starting point of seven years after trial.

“But that can be reduced by a third for your guilty plea and after what we have heard can be discounted further.”

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