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Crook who tried to rob Whitehaven shop thwarted by brave lone worker

Carlisle Crown Court

A CROOK who was thwarted in his bid to rob a Whitehaven convenience store by a brave shop assistant working alone has been jailed for almost four years.

Heavily-convicted Mark Clark, 49, had only just been released from a previous prison sentence when he entered the Premier shop on Woodhouse Road just after 5pm on July 6. Clark pulled his grey jumper over his face in a bid to disguise his identity and demanded of lone employee Tracey Ball: “I have come for your money. Open the till.”

Ms Ball, however, responded resolutely, telling Clark “you’re getting nowt” before pretending her boss was in the premises to try and scare him away. Her courage continued even when the would-be robber fiddled behind his back to indicate he had a blade and warned: “Open the till now or you will get the knife.”

Clark left empty-handed but was later arrested at his George Street home in Whitehaven.

Although Ms Ball returned to work the next day, she became badly affected by the shock of Clark’s crime.

“Having had time to process the incident when she returned to work she describes her legs turning to jelly. She was physically shaking,” prosecutor Gerard Rogerson told Carlisle Crown Court.

“She describes being plagued by hooded figures since that day in terms of that being the first image that comes into her mind when she tries to sleep.”

He added: “She feels her world has been turned upside down by Mr Clark’s actions. She is no longer a happy-go-lucky person, not as open and friendly to the customers and she says she wants Mr Clark to understand that she is a person and not just a shop assistant but an individual with feelings and emotions.

The court heard Clark had 148 offences on a criminal record stretching back to 1984 and, said his barrister, his admission of the attempted robbery charge was his only mitigation.

Passing a 44-month jail term today (TUES), Judge Nicholas Barker noted the impact on Ms Ball had been huge, but praised her bravery, telling Clark: “She met your appalling threats with nothing but commendable strength and determination.”

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