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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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Awards for men who chased Carlisle knifeman

Three men have been saluted for their bravery after helping bring an armed robber who targeted lone female shop workers to justice.

Barvery awards photo
Matthew Whyte-Earl, left, Gary Smart and Damien Byrne with High Sheriff Diana Matthews

Matthew Whyte-Earl, 34, Gary Scott, 19, and Damien Byrne, 35, chased Blair Sandman for about half a mile through Carlisle city centre.

Sandman had just threatened female shop assistants with a knife at Poundstretcher in Castle Street and Sewells Newsagents in Warwick Road.

But as he ran off, Mr Whyte-Earl, who owns the Cyber Cafe next to the newsagents, Mr Scott, a customer at the cafe, and passer-by Mr Byrne headed after him in pursuit.

The brave trio chased the robber through the city, onto Botchergate, and even into the Woodrow Wilson pub until police cornered Sandman in Crown Street.

When asked by an officer whether he had a knife, Sandman replied: “Trust me, I’d have used it if I’d still had it on me.”

Sandman, 20, from Blackburn, was jailed for six years at Carlisle Crown Court in October, after admitting the two robberies, along with a third robbery at Bells of Lazonby cafe in Warwick Road where he stole £600. Each time he had targeted lone female employees, the court was told.

A special hearing took place at the court yesterday where Mr Whyte-Earl, Mr Scott and Mr Byrne were handed the prestigious High Sheriff of Cumbria award in honour of their actions.

Judge Paul Batty QC said: “These three gentlemen deserve the grateful thanks of this city for their bravery in bringing an armed and dangerous robber to justice and we salute you all.”

Afterwards, all three joked that the experience was “like being in The Bill”, but told The Cumberland News they would do exactly the same thing again.

Mr Whyte-Earl, of London Road, said: “It’s nice to be recognised for what we did. It was a dangerous situation and I did think afterwards about what could have happened in the heat of the moment.”

Mr Byrne, from Warwick Road, added: “My mum works in the town and I just thought how would I have felt if he [Sandman] had done this to her?”

Mr Whyte-Earl also said he felt Sandman’s six-year jail sentence could have been longer.

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