Prison for Sunderland masked robber

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A MASKED man who armed himself with a knife to raid a shop has been jailed for four years and eight months.

William Lancaster escaped with more than £2,000 in cash from the Co-op store in Newton Hall, Durham City.

He confronted three staff as they were about to close the store at 10pm, Durham Crown Court heard.

“Lancaster was holding a kitchen knife and wearing a balaclava,” said David Wilkinson, prosecuting.

“He led the staff to an office at the rear of the premises and told one of the women to put the contents of a small safe into a carrier bag.

“He left with the bag, removing the balaclava as he went out of the door.”

Mr Wilkinson added: “By chance, the father of one of the staff was outside waiting to collect his daughter and saw what happened.”

The court heard police arrived a short time later and were pointed in the direction Lancaster was seen heading.

He was found hiding in a nearby garden, still with the knife, balaclava and the carrier bag of money.

Lancaster, 42, of Thomas Street, Sacriston, admitted robbery, possession of an offensive weapon, and possession of a small quantity of heroin, all on November 13.

Paul Donoghue, defending, said in mitigation: “Mr Lancaster had been out of trouble for 12 years, but he turned to drugs after the breakdown of a relationship.

“This led to a jail sentence for street dealing, and to debts to a dealer further up the chain.

“He was desperate when he carried out this robbery, which is a crime way above anything he has previously been involved in.”