AN armed robber who held up a corner shop with a hammer was shopped to police by his shocked parents – after they saw his terrifying masked face in The Gazette.
Kathryn and Thomas Dagger recognised their teenage son Thomas from a shocking CCTV image – even though he was wearing a Halloween mask at the time.
The 18-year-old had pointed a mallet in a shop assistant’s face and demanded money.
He was accompanied in the bungled robbery in Warton by a 16-year-old, who was also armed with a hammer.
Dagger’s parents saw The Gazette’s front page coverage of the robbery, suspected the CCTV image was that of their son and called police.
In a sensational development, both would-be armed robbers avoided being jailed after their victim’s father praised Dagger’s parents for coming forward.
Dagger, of Glebe Mews, Clifton, and his accomplice, who cannot be named due to his age, pleaded guilty to both attempted robbery and having offensive weapons.
They had entered McColl’s convenience store on Lytham Road, on October 25 last year, where 18-year-old shop assistant Craig Prince was working behind the counter.
The defendants had their hoods up and Halloween masks covering their faces.
Dagger approached the counter and said: “Open the till and give me the money or I’ll bag you.”
He then pulled out a mallet, pointed it in Mr Prince’s face and banged it down on the counter, while his accomplice produced a hammer.
Craig Cleminson, prosecuting, told Preston Crown Court, Mr Prince told them he could not open the till. He pressed a bell which rang in the staff room and the hapless pair turned and fled.
As he left, Dagger shouted he would be back with a shotgun.
The ordeal lasted no more than seconds, but had been a terrifying experience for the shop assistant, the court heard.
CCTV footage of the crime featured on the front page of The Gazette (right) three days later.
Mr Cleminson added: “That front page article was seen by parents Kathryn and Thomas Dagger.
“They both recognised their son from his build and his clothing as being the masked offender.
“They immediately telephoned the police and they co-operated with the officers throughout these clearly difficult proceedings.
“Mr Dagger says he and his wife are devastated and sickened by what their son has done.”
Neither defendant had any previous convictions.
Gerald Jones, defending Dagger, said: “This was a wholly inexplicable course of conduct on his part. It was 30 seconds of madness.
“He instructs me he felt remorse. He could not cope with what he had done and, in effect, was glad his parents had told the police.
“His parents acted in a most public spirited and responsible way.”
Dagger had suffered from Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and some dyslexia. At school he had been bullied, the court was told.
His barrister said there seemed to have been some peer pressure surrounding the attempted robbery.
The defendants had been driven to and from the scene by a 19-year-old and a fourth person had also been in the car.
Mr Jones added: “He had no great need of money. He didn’t do it because of personal gain but, rather naively, felt that someone else was in need.”
David Toal, defending the 16-year-old, said he his client had a very limited role in that no actual force had been used and he had not made any threats.
Before the judge passed sentence, Simon Prince, the father of the teenager working behind the counter that night, addressed the court.
Mr Prince said: “I should be standing here saying ‘I hope you throw the book at them’.
“Speaking as a parent and understanding what the parents went through, I understand if they had not done that, we wouldn’t be here today. I don’t know them. All I know is they have had the bottle to put their son through this.
“I don’t want them to have a lesson that because they have done right, they would be penalised.
“My son Craig wouldn’t want it.
“Craig wants lessons to be learned. He would rather they have supervision and have the influence of their parents.
“If they were banged up, no lessons would be learned.
“I’d rather encourage parents and teach them to come forward and do the really brave thing that they did.”
Dagger was given 10 months’ youth custody, suspended for two years, with a 12-month supervision and a six-month long tagged curfew, which will operate from 10pm-8am each day.
The 16-year-old was also given a 12-month youth rehabilitation order.