Bungling Sunderland armed raider spared jail

Serena Armstrong.
Serena Armstrong.

A former carer who attempted to rob a shop while wielding a large kitchen knife has been spared jail.

A judge at Newcastle Crown Court praised the "remarkable fortitude" of the lone female shopkeeper who battled armed Serena Armstrong as she tried to grab money from the till.

Newcastle Crown Court was shown CCTV footage of the moment the 34-year-old, who disguised herself with a scarf and hood, produced a knife from the inside of her sleeve at Fletcher's shop, in Hendon, Sunderland.

The footage shows Armstrong threaten the shopkeeper before struggling to open the till and instead making off with the victim's mobile phone.

Prosecutor David Crook told the court: "The defendant was wearing a dark coloured scarf over the lower part of her face with her hood pulled up."

He said Armstrong then produced a knife and demanded cash, adding: "The defendant went to the front of the counter to get the till to work but it wouldn't. She tried to open it but it wouldn't.

"The defendant grabbed the complainant's mobile phone and left the premises."

Mr Crook explained how she then tried to flee on a push bike but was stopped by a man who heard the shopkeeper scream "stop her".

Armstrong was arrested following the incident on September 22 last year and later admitted attempted robbery and theft.

Rachael Landin, defending, said: "Miss Anderson at the time of the offence was operating under some significant mental health difficulties.

"She is not someone who has personally caused any harm for anyone else.

"Within 20 minutes of the offence she was sectioned under the mental health act.

"She told me she grew up in an area that was pretty rough an she felt proud that she did not have any convictions.

"She said she feels highly embarrassed and recognises she needs to stay out of the way from the staff who were working there at the time."

Miss Landin also explained how the defendant suffered from "acute episodes" of psychosis and suffered from post traumatic stress following an ordeal with an ex-partner.

Judge Simon Batiste sentenced Armstrong, of Tower Street, Hendon, Sunderland, to two years in prison, suspended for two years with a rehabilitation requirement.

He said: "This is an extremely serious offence.

"There was a lone woman who showed enormous bravery and should be commended.

"I am not going to lock you up today but this is a very serious matter. I am taking an extremely unusual course today.

"There must have been some harm caused even for someone who showed the courageous behaviour of this woman.

"You have a long string of mental health issues and an unstable personality. It is clear that but for that acute episode this matter would not have been completed.

"I have taken a very unusual course with you today. Do not let me down. I really hope you can deal with your problems and get the support you need."