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Shop worker’s relief after robber jailed for water pistol attack - in what was his 13th robbery at the store

PUBLISHED: 10:59 07 September 2018 | UPDATED: 14:27 07 September 2018

Co-op on Catton Grove Road, Norwich. PIC: Peter Walsh

Co-op on Catton Grove Road, Norwich. PIC: Peter Walsh

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A shop worker has told of her relief that a dangerous robber who has targeted people and shops in Norwich since the 1990s has been “taken off the streets”.

Tracey-Anna Clark, team manager at Catton Grove Co-op. PIC: Peter Walsh.Tracey-Anna Clark, team manager at Catton Grove Co-op. PIC: Peter Walsh.

Ryan Smith, 42, was given an extended 10-year-prison sentence after he admitted using a water pistol in a robbery at a Norwich Co-op store.

Smith flashed the black handle of what appeared to be a pistol at the teenage cashier in what was his 13th city robbery at the Catton Grove Road store.

He had also slipped a note in a bag onto the counter which read: “Put the money in the bag, keep quiet and nobody gets hurt”.

Tracey-Anna Clark, a team manager at the store, was working at the time of the incident, on July 9 this year.

Ryan Smith has been jailed for a 10 year extended sentence after his 13th robbery in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk PoliceRyan Smith has been jailed for a 10 year extended sentence after his 13th robbery in Norwich. Picture: Norfolk Police

She had been working out the back at the time of the robbery and told how the teen suddenly came rushing up to her after Smith had stolen £500 from two tills.

She said: “He came running out the back and banged on the door and said “I’ve just been robbed at gunpoint” and for three seconds I thought your messing about.

“And then he said “no I’ve just had to empty the tills at gunpoint” at which point I saw him start to break down.”

Mrs Clark said she told him to sit down in the office and then closed the shop, which still had two or three customers in, before she contacted the police and her managers.

She said: “The armed police were here very quickly.”

The teenager’s mum came to collect him after he had given a statement.

He returned to work over the summer but has since gone out to America on a four-year scholarship.

Mrs Clark, who praised the teenage worker’s bravery, attended the sentencing hearing at Norwich Crown Court this week.

She said: “I’m really pleased he’s off the streets even if it was a water pistol.”

Mrs Clark said she contacted the former worker to let him know the result and said he “seemed pleased that he was off the streets”.

Teen’s shock and fear over gun threat

At Norwich Crown Court on Wednesday, prosecutor Chris Youell read a victim impact statement from the 18-year-old cashier.

It read: “Before the crime occurred I was confident at work, working late shifts and serving all types of customers and would walk home after late shifts.

“My first reactions were shock and fear when I first saw what I thought was a gun. I tried to stay calm but inside I was fearful for other people’s safety.

“When I told my manager the shock really set in. For the next couple of nights I found it difficult to sleep because I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

“Since then I feel less confident going out at night and more worried about strangers. I feel worried about walking home from evening shifts.”

Andrew Oliver, mitigating for Smith, said he had “tried to settle down” after release from prison in summer 2017 but had been tracked down by “a gang who had supplied him with drugs in custody”.

“A large amount of pressure was put on him to pay the debt which had accumulated to £1,000,” said Mr Oliver.

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