A 36-YEAR-old man who threatened to ‘blow a shop assistant’s brains out’ with a fake handgun has been jailed for seven years.

Andrew Sutcliffe, of McKee Avenue in Orford, masked his face with a scarf during a dawn raid at the post office on Poplars Avenue in January telling the victim he was ‘not messing about’.

He stole £80 after threatening the shop worker who was praised by the judge for his bravery.

Prosecuting, Charles Lander explained that Sutcliffe, who appeared at Liverpool Crown Court on Friday, entered the Post office at around 6.10am on January 7.

In a victim impact statement store assistant Gary Houghton, who has worked at the shop for more than 16 years, said he had opened at around 5.40am that day to give the postmaster a break from getting up early.

He was sorting the morning papers when someone at the counter started shouting and swearing at him.

Sutcliffe, dressed in black with his hood up and a scarf covering his face, told him to put the money in a red plastic bag and said: “I’m not messing about, I’ll blow your brains out.”

The victim added: “I knew that he was being serious. I opened the till and started to put the money in the bag, as I was doing this the male leaned over the counter and put his right hand into the till.”

Sutcliffe, who was found guilty of robbery and possessing an imitation firearm,  left the shop with around £80 from the cash register and made his escape on a bicycle while Mr Houghton called the police.

Warrington Guardian:

Mr Houghton said: “No person has the right to threaten me in the way he did and steal money. When I think about what happened I could have been assaulted or even worse shot, all I was doing was opening the shop and serving customers.”

Defending, Charlotte Kenny said: “He has had frequent spells in custody. Most of his offending in the past appears to be financially motivated but the defendant maintains his innocence.

“He is now off drugs for the first time. His drug use goes back to the age of 11 or 12. He was taking cocaine and ecstasy by the age of 16. At 25, heroin addiction took hold.”

She added that Sutcliffe was luckily to have such a ‘stoic and brave’ victim and said Sutcliffe also has a ‘serious’ heart condition and is awaiting surgery.

Judge Recorder Mary Loram also praised Mr Houghton, saying “It could be said that Sutcliffe is lucky in that his victim turned out to be more robust than one might expect and has taken a brave a stoical approach to this offence.”

Sentencing Sutcliffe to seven years in prison she said his case was made worse because of his previous convictions, which include a number of burglaries and a ‘nearly identical’ robbery offence ten years ago.

She added: “The victim is a stoic man and brave and has not been overly affected by your behaviour. If you had a different victim it would have been a different matter.

“This was not a spontaneous offence. You concealed your identity. You had used gloves in an attempt not to leave any trace. That attempt failed.

“The robbery of shops such as post offices that provide public services is a serious offence. The fact that you have a heart condition does not mitigate what you did.

“You have children and despite that you have done nothing to address your offending.”