An “almost apologetic” robber who targeted an off-licence on Belfast’s Antrim Road was handed a three and a half year sentence on Friday.
Whilst robbing Gap Wines, Alan Joseph Paul Heaney told an employee he was ‘doing it for his children’ - despite the fact he is not a father.
The 22-year old, from Knockenagh Walk in Newtownabbey, was told by Judge Geoffery Miller QC that he will serve 21 months of his sentence in custody, with the remaining 21 months on supervised licence upon his release.
Belfast Crown Court heard Heaney was linked to the robbery via a fingerprint he left on the glass frontage of the off licence.
Prosecutor Mark Farrell said the off licence was targeted around 4pm on August 24 last year, when a lone worker was approached by a male who told him ‘go to the till.’ The male also told the staff member ‘don’t make me get the knife out’ before gesturing to his pocket.
Mr Farrell said that throughout the incident, no weapon was produced. The robber also told the shop assistant he was doing it for his children, and when the worker challenged him by asking what kind of example he was setting, the robber reminded the staff member he was the one with the knife.
Heaney ended up being handed a total of £125, and as he was leaving he touched the glass frontage of the premises.
The court heard that the same off licence was robbed the week before, when the same lone worker was held up at knife-point.
When the robbery on August 24 was reported to police, a crime scene investuigator was able to take a fingerprint from the glass, which was later matched to Heaney. He was also linked to the scene by CCTV footage which showed a man wearing the exact same clothing at a nearby Social Security Agency three hours before the robbery.
When Heaney was arrested two days later, he said he had been at the SSA but had then gone to a friend’s house to play computer games and was not on the Antrim Road at the time of the robbery.
He later pleaded guilty to a single count of robbery.
Mr Farrell spoke of the “serious matter of robbery on a small shopkeeper where violence was offered” but not actually used.
Defence barrister Denis Boyd said his client had a “difficult background” which included not doing well at school, being raised by his grandfather and “drifting” into drugs and getting into trouble.
Branding last August’s robbery as “very impulsive and unsophisticated”, Mr Boyd said the robbery at Gap Wines the week before gave Heaney the idea to rob it as he had no money.
Pointing out the absence of a weapon or violence, Mr Boyd also revealed the worker who was robbed said Heaney appeared ‘almost apologetic.’ The barrister said Heaney has since displayed insight, and “will never do anything like this in the future.”