THREE teenagers have been sentenced for committing a terrifying armed convenience store robbery – one on his 16th birthday.
Aaron Blackburn, 18, Matthew Wallis, 17, and another youth – all wearing masks and black hooded jackets – were caught on CCTV bursting into the Foreways store on Blackwell Road, Carlisle, at 8-50pm on November 20, while two shocked female employees were inside.
Wallis, disguised by a red gas mask and brandishing a large meat cleaver, vaulted the counter before snatching packets of cigarettes. These, along with a till drawer, its cash contents and alcohol, were emptied into a makeshift swag bag duvet cover as the 16-year-old birthday boy kept lookout.
One employee was told to “hurry up” while trying to open the till, Carlisle Crown Court heard. Wallis told the stunned victims: “I won’t hurt you lasses.”
There were no injuries but one employee hadn’t worked since and described suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and depression since the raid, along with sleepless nights and flashbacks.
“The memory of seeing the lads with the gas masks is one that I can’t get out of my head,” she said in a statement. “I’ve lost my ‘get up and go’. The incident has meant that I have lost my independence.”
Addressing the young crooks directly, she stated: “I hope it was all worth it. You have changed my life from the person I was.”
Police chased the robbers, who initially escaped but were found hiding in the loft of a house in the Upperby area of Carlisle the following morning. Damning forensic evidence from clothing and masks recovered after the crime, and a footprint left on the shop counter, helped bring them to justice. Loot was found in and around the address.
All three youths admitted robbery. Wallis, of Blackpool, also admitted offensive weapon possession. He, Blackburn, of Queen’s Road, Kendal, and the 16-year-old, of Carnforth, were said to have had difficult upbringings.
Blackburn was sent to custody for 40 months and Wallis for three years. The youth received a two-year detention training order.
Judge Barker said of the victims: “What met them can only be described as a truly horrifying sight.” He told the robbers: “All three of you were there for the same purpose. All three of you knew what was happening. All three of you were equally involved.”
Detective Constable Stephen Kidd said: “This was a terrifying experience for the women who worked in the shop who found themselves confronted by unknown people in masks armed with weapons.
“Any time people carry or brandish knives or other bladed weapons there is the potential for serious injuries to be caused. Thankfully, in this instance nobody was hurt.
“Today’s sentencing should send out a strong message as to how seriously the police and the courts take such offending.”