Building society raider 'was a customer'

A COURT has heard how building society staff realised that an armed robber demanding cash was one of their own customers.The knife-wielding man who struck at the Woolwich in Bury St Edmunds had been a regular caller for three years at the branch where cashiers had been on first name terms with him.

A COURT has heard how building society staff realised that an armed robber demanding cash was one of their own customers.

The knife-wielding man who struck at the Woolwich in Bury St Edmunds had been a regular caller for three years at the branch where cashiers had been on first name terms with him.

Ipswich Crown Court heard yesterday how James Ashton threatened a woman cashier with a serrated steak knife on May 10th this year and demanded she hand over notes from the till.

But it emerged that the till contained no notes, only coins and the amount being demanded by Ashton, 47, was less than he held in his own account.


You may also want to watch:


Ashton was forced to flee with a bag containing £59.65 in coins as staff activated an alarm.

Yesterday Ashton, of Northumberland Avenue, Bury St Edmunds was jailed for four years after pleading guilty to robbery.

Most Read

Prosecutor Andrew Shaw said that on the morning of the robbery Ashton had made a withdrawal at the branch.

Five hours later he returned, still dressed in the same coat but with the hood pulled up, and carried out the robbery.

A frightened woman cashier was told by Ashton: "This is a robbery. I'm drunk, I've got a knife. I want money".

Police officers arrived just after Ashton had fled but within a matter of minutes he was located and arrested in Abbeygate Street.

A bag being carried by Ashton contained the coins taken from the Woolwich and the knife used during the robbery was found in his pocket.

Three members of staff, who had been on first name terms with Ashton, were able to identify him as the robber, said Mr Shaw.

The court heard that Ashton had a history of 36 previous court appearances involving 108 separate offences.

In mitigation, Samantha Leigh said that Ashton had mental health problems which were made worse when he had been drinking and which dated back at least ten years.

He had co-operated fully following his arrest and while on remand always taken medication prescribed to help his condition.

When he carried out the robbery Ashton had been depressed, following the death of his father and brother and he was also in debt.

Miss Leigh said: "He is known to the branch. He had more money in his account than he demanded. He is extremely sorry.”

Jailing Ashton, Judge John Devaux told him: "You have a very bad record.”

The judge said that Ashton would serve half in custody and half on licence supervised by the Probation Serving and must undergo treatment for mental health and alcohol problems.

Judge Devaux said: "You knew perfectly well whatever your mental condition might be from day to day how you will behave when you take alcohol".

The judge added: "You drink, you drink, you drink and you offend, you offend and you offend".

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter