Four years for knifeman

A pregnant woman who was robbed by a man wielding a cleaver after he was released early from prison says she feels “let down” by the justice system.

A pregnant woman who was robbed by a man wielding a cleaver after he was released early from prison says she feels “let down” by the justice system.

David Maslen, 23, of Wellington Road, Dereham, was sentenced at Norwich Crown Court to four years in jail for the robbery at The Local, in the Market Place, Dereham on January 29.

The court heard that Maslen, who admitted the offence, had been out of Wayland Prison on licence for only 10 days when he submitted shop manager Gemma Didicua, 23, to the terrifying ordeal.

Maslen had been sentenced in May 2006 to 22-months in jail for offences including aggravated vehicle taking and driving while disqualified and under the influence of alcohol.

He has been recalled to prison and will now serve the remainder of his existing sentence, which will run alongside the new sentence.

Speaking after the sentence, Miss Diduca, who was 14-weeks pregnant when Maslen had thrust the meat cleaver just a foot away from her stomach, said: “I feel let down that they would release someone like this. They should not have let him out. I am not really angry but I do feel let down.

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“I think four years is a fair sentence. He obviously had not learnt his lesson so it is good that he is back in jail.”

She said now that Maslen was back behind bars she was looking forward to getting on with her life.

Nick Methold prosecuting said Maslen had threatened Gemma Diduca with the meat cleaver before he made off with £350 to £400 from the shop's till.

He said Miss Diduca, from Scarning, had been left “fearful of working on her own” as a result of what happened.

He said the defence had said Maslen had felt “fed up and alone” after being let of prison in January and that Maslen had convictions that went back to 2000.

Michael Clare, the defence, said Maslen did not make any explicit threat to harm Miss Diduca and had no intention of harming her.

He said Maslen does not have the type of personality that “lends itself to rational thought” and that Maslen was full of regret and remorse.

Judge Paul Downes said: “I take into account that you did not intend to harm the lady but on the other hand she wasn't to know that.”

He added: “The court has to protect people who run small businesses who are easily robbed.”

DS Tom Neill was one of the policemen involved in catching Maslen just days after the robbery.

He explained Maslen had been caught on the shop's CCTV, although his face was not shown.

Police then found Maslen's clothes burnt around the meat cleaver and dumped in a driveway in Dereham's Theatre Street area. Further inquiries led police to Wellington Road where CCTV cameras had caught Maslen leaving his home just before the robbery wearing the clothes shown on the footage from the shop. He was recorded returning shortly after the crime wearing different clothes.

DS Neill said Maslen's capture was the result of some excellent work from officers and also thanks to the public who had contacted the police with information.

He added Maslen's capture also highlighted how important CCTV is for helping to catch offenders.