East Belfast store robber handed six-year sentence

Court
Court

A 35-year old man who robbed a convenience store in east Belfast whilst brandishing a knife was handed a six-year sentence on Thursday.

Eamonn McManus was informed by Her Honour Judge McCaffrey that he will spend three years of the sentence behind bars, with the remaining three years on licence upon his release.

Belfast Crown Court heard that after robbing a member of staff at knifepoint, McManus got into a waiting taxi and told the driver “they can afford it, they’re millionaires”.

McManus, a Belfast man with 72 previous convictions who at the time of arrest was of no fixed abode, admitted both carrying out the robbery at the shop on Ravenhill Road on April 1, 2016, and of possessing a knife with intent to commit a robbery at a second Belfast store the following day.

Prior to passing sentence, Judge McCaffrey was told that around 8.25pm on April 1 last year, a shop assistant was working at Russell’s when McManus entered the premises, armed with a knife. McManus approached the employee and ordered a bag be filled with cash from the till.

Telling the employee “don’t think about pushing the panic button” and warning “don’t try anything funny”, McManus scraped the counter with the knife several times during the robbery.

Money was placed in a bag and McManus then fled the shop and got into a taxi in a lay-by on My Lady’s Road. As McManus was getting into the taxi, the driver noticed the knife in his right hand. The driver then dropped McManus off in the city centre before contacting police.

The following day, McManus entered the Mace store on the Ormeau Road with his face completely covered. Someone in the shop noticed that he had a knife, a request was made to call the police and he left the store.

CCTV was subsequently viewed, leading to McManus’s arrest. He was interviewed on April 4, telling police he was innocent and that on April 1 he had been at his sister’s house. He later pleaded guilty to both charges.

Defence barrister Richard McConkey said the fact his client confessed his crime to a taxi driver “spoke volumes” about his level of intoxication on April 1.

The barrister said due to McManus’s drugs misuse he had “no memory” of the incident, but that in the cold light of sobriety he is “disgusted and horrified” by his behaviour.

McManus, the court heard, had also written a letter of apology to the employee affected by his actions, who - due to his plea - was spared the ordeal of coming to court and reliving a “very unpleasant and frightening experience”.

Revealing that since his arrest and remand, McManus has not only stopped taking drugs but has managed to avoid them in prison, Mr McConkey also said McManus had a “very significant” history of mental health difficulties dating back to his teens.

Mr McConkey concluded by commenting: “This was not a sophisticated robbery. This was an impulsive act of a man desperate to obtain money for drugs.”

Passing sentence, Judge McCaffrey said the incident would have been a frightening experience for the member of staff at Russell’s. The judge also recommended that McManus attend a drugs counselling course as part of his period on licence, as well as the Probation Board’s Thinking Skills programme.