Two men have been warned they face “significant custodial sentences’’ for trying to hold up a Co Down Chinese takeaway wearing masks and carrying a toy gun.
Mark Flanagan, 26, of Glenbane Avenue, Newtownabbey, and Wayne Hunter, 25, of York Park, Belfast, pleaded guilty at Downpatrick Crown Court to attempted robbery and possession of a firearm with intent to commit a robbery.
Hunter also pleaded guilty to possession of five bags of herbal cannabis which was found in a flat by police following his arrest.
Sam Magee, prosecuting, told the court that the offences were committed on June 25, 2015 at the Peking Garden takeaway outlet on Green Road, Conlig.
Judge Piers Grant heard staff noticed the two men walk past the shop before returning around 10pm to “rob it” with both men wearing masks to try and disguise their faces even though they were known to staff.
One of the masks was later found to have a UDA emblem on the front.
The prosecutor said Hunter entered the premises wearing a white mask with holes cut out, approached the counter and held “a police-like gun at shoulder height’’ within two metres of a member of staff.
The court heard Hunter then placed a white bag on the counter and demanded money be put in the bag.
Flanagan, the court was told, was wearing a dark mask and was keeping look out at the door.
Mr Magee said that counter staff shouted that “police were coming’’ and kitchen staff then appeared behind the counter before Hunter and Flanagan “ran from the shop” empty-handed.
The masked men fled in the directon of Conlig’s Ardvanagh area and were pursued by Peking Garden staff and members of the public.
“They tried to scale a fence but failed. Mr Hunter lost his shoe in the process,” the prosecutor told the court.
Hunter was arrested around 10.30pm and Flanagan a short time later. He directed police officers to a flat in the Breezemount estate in Conlig where officers recovered five small packets of herbal cannabis.
The prosecutor said police recovered several items concerned with the robbery including a white mask containing blood which matched Hunter’s DNA profile.
A dark-coloured mask which “contained a UDA emblem” was a DNA match for Flanagan. The recovered firearm turned out to be a dark blue/black toy gun.
During police interviews, Hunter claimed the pair were out for a walk to the local reservoir. But when he was told Flanagan had said they had gone out to rob the takeaway, Hunter replied: “Filthy, lousy b*****d.”
The court heard Hunter had 11 previous convictions and at the time of the robbery bid was the subject of a four-month sentence suspended for three years.
Flanagan had previous convictions for assault and disorderly behaviour.
Defence barrister Conor Holmes told the court: “Mr Hunter has shown genuine and real remorse for his actions. He is ashamed of his actions and the impact this had on the people involved. He fully accepts that he is going to prison for these offences.’’
Accepting that the robbery bid was a “terrifying experience’’ for the takeaway staff, barrister Conan Rea asked the court to treat father-of-three Flanagan as a “secondary offender’’ and not as the man who went into the takaway with the imitation firearm.
He told the court that the robbery bid was “not pre-planned and no violence or physical harm was used against anybody”.
Mr Rea added: “They were always going to get caught and convicted for these offences.”
Judge Piers Grant said he would require some time to read over a number of sentencing authorities handed into court and adjourned sentencing.
But the judge warned Hunter and Flanagan: “Significant custodial sentences will be imposed of that there should be no doubt.”
Both men were remanded in custody to be sentenced on Friday.