Saturday, 28 November 2015

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Teenager jailed for gunpoint robbery at Cumbrian post office

A 19-year-old man has been jailed for 10 years after he threatened a woman with a gun, held up a post office and led police on a high speed pursuit.

Connor Newall photo
Connor Newall

The chase reached its dramatic conclusion as armed officers cornered Connor Newall after ramming his car.

As they bravely wrestled him to the ground, the thug pleaded for mercy, yelling: “I don’t want to die. I’m a dead man – I owe thousands.”

Newall had just carried out a carjacking and then robbed a post office, leaving his victims traumatised.

He was today beginning a 10 year jail term for his crimes.

As he was led from the dock at Carlisle Crown Court, Judge Paul Batty QC commended the bravery of the officers who stopped him.

Prosecutor Beccy McGregor described the frightening series of events of the afternoon of November 8 last year that culminated in the 20-mile police chase through towns and villages along the A596, ending near Prospect.

Watch part of the police chase. Article continues below...

The first victim was 51-year-old Donna Lancaster, who was sitting in her Vauxhall Corsa, parked in George Street, Wigton, at 12.45pm.

She was busy texting a friend when Newall, who lives in the street, pulled open the passenger door, and calmly told her: “Excuse me, but I need to borrow your car.”

Frightened, she said no but then noticed that he had a gun under his jacket.

“He told her she had no choice, and she gave him the keys, saying: ‘Just take it’. He pointed the gun towards Miss Lancaster’s face and told her he also wanted her mobile phone.

“She described feeling that ‘This was it; that her world was at an end’.”

Even as he drove away, she feared she would be shot, said Miss McGregor.

Just after 2pm, Newall – by this time disguised in a black balaclava – burst into the post office at nearby Kirkbrike, and used the gun – later found to be an air weapon – to threaten postmistress Gwen Hopkinson and her colleague Amanda Harrison.

Miss McGregor said: “He said he wanted some money and Mrs Hopkinson laughed, believing he was joking.

“He told her he was not joking; that he was desperate and that he was sorry.”

Terrified, the women could only watch as Newall grabbed more than £900 from the till.

Mrs Harrison followed Newall out of the shop and, having noted the car he was driving, rang the police.

Armed officers, supported by a police helicopter, then began pursuing him as he drove at speeds of up to 100mph along the A596 and nearby roads, driving through junctions and narrowly avoiding crashes.

The 20-minute chase began in Silloth, where a pedestrian had to leap out of the way as Newall sped past, and went through Aspatria, Allonby, and towards Maryport. It ended after the stolen Vauxhall – its tyres punctured by a stinger device – was rammed near to the village of Prospect by a police car.

Newall told police he owed a drug dealer £1,500 and wanted to pay him.

In court, he admitted two counts of robbery, possessing a firearm with intent and dangerous driving.

His barrister Marion Weir said he now appreciated the terror that his victims must have felt, adding: “He wants to move forward and get on with his sentence and express an apology to the victims.”

Judge Batty told the defendant: “You terrorised these women in two separate and very serious robberies.”

The judge said the crimes traumatised his victims, leaving Miss Lancaster unable to work for a fortnight and shattering the confidence of Mrs Hopkinson.

Judge Batty commended the bravery of the officers who caught a defendant they believed had a live firearm.

“The court cannot be other than impressed by the actions of these officers in bringing this defendant to justice,” added the judge.

Newall was also banned from driving for five years.


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