Health store raiders snared by number plate

Preston Crown Court
Preston Crown Court
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Raiders were caught after staff at a health store noted the number plate on the getaway car – and police were waiting for them when they returned home.

A woman purporting to want to lose weight helped three men stage the robbery.

The quartet have been jailed for their roles in the armed raid at health consultancy the Academy of Health and Diet on Leeds Road, Blackpool, on May 20.

Preston Crown Court heard how despite one of the robbers having a stun gun, determined business owner Sharon Draper kept struggling to stop them getting the takings out of her handbag.

The robbery happened moments after Paula Clayton, a client of the firm who had tipped her co-defendants off about the money, had turned up at the venue just before it closed, asking to see a doctor and seek advice.

Mum-of-two Clayton, 36, of Bangor Avenue, Blackpool, began to cry in the dock as defence lawyer Rachel Woods said: “While she played a pivotal role she had not expected it would turn out to be as serious as it did – it spiralled out of control very quickly.”

Recorder Mark Brown said: “You left rather boldly afterwards as if nothing had happened and as if you had nothing to do with it.”

Clayton was jailed for 12 months after admitting theft.

John Eichner, 36, of Braithwaite Street, admitted robbery and possession of a prohibited weapon and was jailed for seven and a half years.

Michael Ryan, 32, of Imperial Street, admitted robbery and was jailed for four years and three months.

Getaway driver Paul Gerrard, 47, of Platt Street, admitted assisting an offender, after the court heard he drove his brother’s car, and was jailed for 27 months.

Cecilia Pritchard, prosecuting, said: “One of the clients at the time was Clayton. She attended purporting to want to be weighed or seen by the doctor just before 8pm when the clinic was due to close.

“She was speaking to an employee and gave two different names.

“She was given her card. Sharon Draper retrieved the cash takings she had left in a cabinet and put it into her handbag, at which point she heard the door being opened.

“She looked up and saw two men, one of whom was wearing a skeleton mask and carrying a Taser.

“He shouted at her saying ‘give me the money, where’s the money’ and ran towards her and pushed her out of the way. He went straight to the bottom drawer.

“She came to the conclusion he had information where the cash would be.

“He took out the petty cash tin and seemed furious and said again ‘Where’s the money?’. By this time he spotted her handbag.

“He pushed his arm to her arm which caused her to lose balance, then bent own and picked up her bag.

“They both were struggling with it. She said the Taser was making a crackling noise and was against her clothing.

“She made to snatch the bag and threw it over his head down the corridor where it landed in front of Clayton.”

The court heard the robbers were traced virtually immediately when staff gave the getaway car reg plate to police – leading to Gerrard’s brother on Braithwaite Street.

Officers were already there when the vehicle arrived back just before 8pm.

Ryan and Eichner fled and were found in the attic of Eicnner’s home on Braithwaite Street, with the stun gun, mask and money.

They also found a printer for making false currency, amphetamine and heroin and Eichner subsequently admitted further offences.