Gun­point rob­bery as fam­i­lies looked on

Southport Visiter - - Front Page - BY LYNDA ROUGHLEY vis­iternews@south­portvis­ @SeftonE­cho

ALUXURY de­signer shop in South­port town cen­tre was robbed at gun­point while it was busy with chil­dren and their par­ents, a court heard.

The rob­ber, his face partly hid­den by a peaked cap and wrap­around sun­glasses, tried to make off with £4,100 worth of cloth­ing he had se­lected in the store, Flan­nels, but was foiled by the sus­pi­cious man­ager and only fled with one bag con­tain­ing two pairs of train­ers worth £1,000.

The man, al­leged to be Tadiwa Chi­hota, who had pointed a gun at man­ager Grant Tin­dall, made off in a Ford Fi­esta out­side the Tulketh Street shop leav­ing be­hind shocked staff and cus­tomers.

A jury at Liver­pool Crown Court heard that the Fi­esta, which was bear­ing plates stolen from a ve­hi­cle in the city a few days ear­lier, was fol­lowed by armed po­lice along the Formby by­pass that af­ter­noon, May 29 this year, head­ing to­wards Liver­pool.

“They fol­lowed it at speeds up to 90mph and then the car, driven by the de­fen­dant, turned off into a side road with a 20mph limit.

“It was driven at speeds of about 60mph and then it crashed through a gar­den wall,” said Ger­ald Bax­ter, pros­e­cut­ing.

“It ended up on its roof in the gar­den and look­ing at the pic­tures you may won­der if any­one could get out of it alive.

“When the po­lice ar­rived he was not only out of the car, he was climb­ing over the gar­den fence and was ar­rested shortly af­ter­wards.

“The gun, a BB gun, was found on the ground next to the car.

“It was ex­am­ined by an ex­pert who found it was an air pis­tol fir­ing ball bear­ings.

“It had the ap­pear­ance of quite a large Colt type of pis­tol.”

He added: “Some of the prop­erty, in­clud­ing train­ers, was re­cov­ered and shown to the man­ager and iden­ti­fied.

“When in­ter­viewed Chi­hota said he wasn’t the one who com­mit­ted the rob­bery.”

Chi­hota, 20, of Clovelly Road, An­field, Liver­pool, is on trial deny­ing rob­bery and pos­sess­ing an im­i­ta­tion firearm with in­tent to com­mit rob­bery.

The jury heard that he has pleaded guilty to dan­ger­ous driv­ing, han­dling stolen reg­is­tra­tion plates and fraud­u­lently us­ing the stolen plates.

Mr Bax­ter said that Mr Tin­dall and two other peo­ple picked Chi­hota out on a video ID pa­rade as the man who car­ried out the raid and es­caped in the Fi­esta.

The de­fen­dant told po­lice that he had gone to buy some cannabis in Liver­pool and the dealer asked if he was the lad who had com­mit­ted an armed rob­bery at a bank when he was 15. Chi­hota has a con­vic­tion for rob­bery and pos­sess­ing an im­i­ta­tion gun in 2013, said Mr Bax­ter.

The man asked if he had used a gun and Chi­hota told him that he had used an air pis­tol.

The man then asked him to mind some cannabis and drive him to South­port and bring the pis­tol with him.

“The de­fen­dant agreed to do so although he knew it must be dodgy and the de­fen­dant said that the man put false plates on the Fi­esta and they swopped jack­ets and shoes.”

He said the man took the pis­tol when they got to South­port and re­turned about 40 min­utes later and put a bag and the pis­tol in the car and he saw there were train­ers in the bag. He drove around for a while be­fore set­ting off back to­wards Liver­pool and the po­lice then be­gan chas­ing his car.

Mr Tin­dall told the court that af­ter choos­ing cloth­ing the rob­ber left it at the till as he said he had to move his car.

“Some­thing wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my fin­ger on it,” he said.

When he re­turned shortly af­ter­wards Mr Tin­dall thought he was get­ting the money out of his satchel to pay but in­stead he pro­duced a gun and pointed it at him at waist level.

“He held it in a gang­ster style on its side... it was point­ing di­rectly to­wards me.

“I said, ‘no, please’ and I started to move away from him and he shouted, ‘don’t be a hero lad’ as he came round the till.”

Mr Tin­dall said he pressed the panic alarm and grabbed hold of two of the three bags with the cloth­ing in and the rob­ber grabbed the other one and went to­wards the exit still with the gun in his hand.

“I shouted to one of the su­per­vi­sors, ‘he’s got a gun’. It was sur­real.”

He said that the store was busy that af­ter­noon, in­clud­ing par­ents and chil­dren and he ran the length of the store af­ter the rob­ber but the flee­ing man drove off in the Fi­esta.

The case con­tin­ues.

The Flan­nels store, above, in South­port’s Tulketh Street where an armed raid took place; the store’s stylish in­te­rior, in­set above, and the scene of the crash, in­set left

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