Masked robber jailed after raid on Sunderland bookies
A masked robber who terrified two women workers during a betting shop raid while armed with a claw hammer has been put behind bars.
Thomas Brand, who has previously served a 12 year prison sentence for conspiracy to murder, stormed in to the Coral bookmakers in Roker Avenue, Sunderland wearing a ski mask and demanded cash.
When one of the frightened workers tried to reach for the panic button to summon help, the 45-year-old raider, who was brandishing the hammer, warned her not to touch anything.
After filling a bag with notes and coins from the till, Brand made off on a bike with more than £600 in takings.
He was arrested after police tracked his get-away route on CCTV and found where he had discarded his mask, which had Brand's DNA on it.
One of the two women who were working in the shop said she had tried to remain calm during the raid but told police: "To be confronted by a masked male brandishing a hammer is a very frightening situation to be in."
Both women told detectives they were scared during the ordeal and one can be seen breaking down in tears when Brand leaves the shop at the end of the ordeal on December 10, which was captured in full on the shop's CCTV.
Brand, of Brandling Street, Roker, Sunderland, admitted robbery.
At Newcastle Crown Court Judge Amanda Rippon jailed him for four years.
The judge told him: "Those women will have to live with what you did that day for the rest of their lives.
"It will effect their work at the bookmakers and no doubt visit them in their dreams."
Brand also pleaded guilty to a burglary at the Lambton Worm pub in Sunderland city last October after he and an accomplice were caught fleeing the pub in the early hours of the morning after smashing their way in.
The court heard a 6ft by 4ft window was smashed during the raid and Brand dropped a bag containing £151 in pound coins taken from a fruit machine as he ran off.
Brand was on bail for the break-in when he committed the bookies raid.
After the betting shop robbery, Brand carried out a second pub burglary, which he pleaded guilty to, at the Hastings Hill pub in Sunderland in the early hours of December 30.
The court heard he and an accomplice caused £800 of damage when they smashed their way in to the bar and made off with a fruit machine.
Jamie Adams, defending, said Brand, who has a long criminal record, tried hard but failed to find legitimate work after his release from the murder conspiracy sentence and drifted back into taking cocaine.
Mr Adams said Brand got a chance to see himself commit the robbery on CCTV and added: "To see two women being frightened by his behaviour really made him feel very ashamed."
Mr Adams added: "He is determined to sort himself out."