A 31-year-old man who robbed a shop assistant on Belfast’s Ormeau Road at knifepoint was on Thursday handed a six-year prison sentence.
David Matthew Gillies – who in December 2013 was jailed for 12 years after committing three other robberies – was linked to the incident by DNA taken from a pair of discarded boxer shorts he used to help cover his face.
Belfast Crown Court heard that on the evening of July 24, 2013 police received a 999 call from the Co-Op store on the Ormeau Road reporting a robbery.
Crown prosecutor Peter Magill said the robber entered the store from the direction of Knockbreda Park, with the hood of his jacket over his head and a cotton-type item covering the lower half of his face.
With a knife in his hand, Gillies told the female shop assistant: “I am not going to hurt you, just open the till.”
When the assistant said she couldn’t open the till, Gillies handed her a packet of sweets and told her to scan them in to enable the till to open. When the till was opened, Gillies helped himself to around £150 in cash.
Mr Magill said police arrived at the scene quickly and a police dog led officers down an alleyway leading to Knockbreda Park. The dog led officers to a fence where a discarded pair of boxer shorts and a black-handled kitchen knife were located.
The court heard the boxer shorts – which were examined and found to bear Gillies DNA – were used as a “crude face mask” during the robbery. He subsequently admitted robbery and possessing an offensive weapon.
Mr Magill revealed this was “the third in four” robberies committed between November 2012 and September 2013 by Gillies. He was handed a 12-year sentence at the end of 2013 after appearing at Downpatrick Crown Court for three of the four robberies.
And as Mr Magill explained to Judge Gordon Kerr QC, this investigation into the robbery at the Co-Op took longer to bring to court due to the DNA evidence involved.
He also said Gillies, whose address was given as HMP Maghaberry, was a man who “clearly has a drugs problem”.
Defence barrister Frank O’Donoghue QC said Gillies “dreadful record” was “to his shame”, but said that the four robberies were committed after he lost his job in April 2012 and the stability that goes with employment.
Mr O’Donoghue also revealed that his client was managing his experience in prison “well” and urged Judge Kerr not to hand Gillies a sentence that would interfere with his release date in 2019.
Passing sentence, Judge Kerr said that robbing the small commercial premises whilst brandishing the knife would have caused “significant fear to the young lady who was working in the shop at the time”.
The Judge handed Gillies a six-year sentence which will run concurrently to the sentence he is already serving.
Half of the sentence will be served in prison, with the remaining three years spent on supervised licence when he is released from custody.