Gunpoint robbery as families looked on
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