Robber caught with money down trousers

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A 50-year-old man who played a role in an armed robbery, during which staff were told they would have their “brains blown out” if they didn’t hand over cash, has been given an eight-year sentence.

Thomas Valliday, from Lady Street in Belfast, will spend three-and-a-half years in custody and four-and-a-half years on supervised licence upon his release, after appearing in court on a single charge of robbery.

Valliday and an accomplice, who has never been apprehended, targeted the Safeway garage on the Springfield Road in west Belfast on the evening of November 26 last year.

The accomplice entered the premises brandishing what was either a real or an imitation sawn-off shotgun, threatening both staff and customers, while Valliday left the premises with just over £3,000 in cash in a white plastic bag.

Belfast Crown Court heard that while Valliday – who spent that afternoon drinking cider and vodka in the City Cemetery – was apprehended a short distance from the garage trying to hide the money down the back of his trousers, his armed accomplice remains at large.

Crown prosecutor David Russell said the pair struck at around 8.30pm, when the shop was busy with customers. Valliday’s accomplice produced the gun, waved it around and threatened staff whilst shouting for money. One member of staff said the gun was pointed at her and a colleague, with the robber shouting at them to put money in a bag or their brains would be blow out.

While these threats were being made, Valliday grabbed a white bag from behind the counter which was then filled with just over £3,000 in cash.

Mr Russell told the court that during the robbery, an employee managed to press a panic button. The pair fled the scene, but Valliday was apprehended in nearby Cavendish Street.

He was arrested and during interview he told police he had been drinking all day in the City Cemetery. The prosecutor said that when Valliday was shown CCTV footage of the robbery, he initially denied he was one of the men but said the robber “could have been his twin, so alike was he”. Valliday subsequently pleaded guilty to a charge of robbery.

Defence lawyer Clive Neville spoke of his client’s limited intelligence, low IQ and alcoholism and also revealed Valliday had a reading age of a seven-year-old.

Telling the court there was very little planning, which was highlighted by the lack of a getaway plan, Mr Neville said Valliday was “caught on the street with the money effectively down his trousers”.

The solicitor added that while alcohol was “no excuse” for the offending, the plan was “conceived and carried out in drink”.