A JUDGE has hailed a customer who rugby tackled a petrol station robber armed with a garden rake.

Gareth Dodd was brought to the ground by a man after he had forced his way into the staff area of Tesco Express, on Winwick Road, on February 3.

Judge Ian Trigger told Dodd when sentencing him: “It is to the credit of a number of the customers who were waiting their turn, you were detained as befits in this manner in the heart lands of rugby league he tackled you with a tackle many professional rugby players would be proud of.”

Warrington Crown Court heard on Monday how Dodd, aged 27, of Laxey Avenue, Woolston, walked into the petrol station at 10.45pm wearing a ski mask and brandishing the rake.

Two young female sales assistants were in the process of cashing up some of the tills and he grabbed more than £500 from one till.

But his escape was thwarted by a man with other customers coming to his aid while waiting for police to arrive.

John Hedgecoe, prosecuting, said: “In interview he said he owed £3,600 to a drug supplier and had been threatened at gunpoint in the back of a vehicle shortly before committing the robbery.

“He had picked up the rake from a garden nearby.”

The court heard the attack had left the two women traumatised and struggling to sleep.

Dodd had a long history of previous convictions for shoplifting, burglary, actual bodily harm and battery among others.

Stephen Tettey, defending, said: “He makes it clear at the time he was apprehended and with the police he was being coerced into this robbery.”

“In October last year he lost a child. After the funeral he was using drugs and alcohol because he hadn’t come to terms with losing a child.”

But handing him a 42-month sentence for two counts of robbery and three months for possession of a weapon - all to run concurrently - Judge Trigger said: “You have not been much use to any of your four children thus far in their lives. You committed offences of violence and dishonesty during their short lives. You have paid scant regard to their welfare.

“You must learn if you are playing with fire you are likely to get burnt.”