Bankrobber Andrew Hall who stormed Matlock RBS brandishing a weapon has been sentenced to nine years in prison, a court has heard.
But the court heard that Hall was threatening them with an “imitation firearm” - a plastic air gun, and has a history of using fake weapons to perform robberies, Derby Crown Court heard on June 26.
The news will provide some closure to his victims, the three employees of the bank who HHJ Rafferty QC said had been significantly affected by the crime.
The judge told the court in his statement: “Each of them has had to give up their employment. Each of them has had trouble sleeping, with signs of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.
“Hopefully none of us will be threatened with death by a complete stranger brandishing a gun.”
After a CCTV appeal from police which showed Hall entering the bank on February 18, demanding cash and threatening employees, it has emerged that the crime was committed with a plastic imitation handgun, still able to cause each of the victims to fear for their lives and who have all now left the bank after suffered post traumatic stress.
Hall, who pleaded guilty to robbery and possession of an imitation firearm on May 26, could not bear to watch the footage of his robbery as it was shown to the court, and tears came from his partner in the public gallery as the sentence was read.
Judge Rafferty found that, even though in his defence Hall claimed he was forced to commit the robbery to repay a debt to other criminals, and did now show the “hallmarks of a professionally planned robbery”, the plan was stil preconceived as he acquired an air pistol, visited the area around the bank beforehand and used Google to determine the best time to perform the robbery.
He also checked online for news reports of the crime according to his web history, the court heard.
Prosecuting counsel Jonathan Dunn said: “In the shop (Indigo Furniture) he asked the manager Helen Henshaw for a bag (claiming) his dog had fowled on the pavement. She followed him and said she wanted to take her bag back because he certainly didn’t have a dog with him.
In the 40 seconds it took Hall to rob the bank, he threatened to shoot employees and forced cashier Matthew Moore to fill a bag acquired minutes before with £4,000.
“Members of staff suggest he had been waiting outside the bank for other customers to leave,” added the barrister.
“He posts the bag underneath the hatch and tells Mr Moore to fill it up. The defendant said to Mr Moore, “I’m counting down, and Mr Moore packed the bag with four bundles of £20 notes, £1,000 each.
He also threatened another employee, Rachael Welbourne who had only worked at the bank for a few weeks, said the prosecutor.
The barrister added: “On two occasions she tried to reach under the counter to press the alarm, and Hall threatened to shoot her.”
Branch manager Janet Buck was in the back office when the robbery took place, and saw what was happening on the CCTV and called the police.
Hall had been recognised as a volunteer at OzBox, a free boxing club to keep young people fit, and was arrested by armed officers while getting his hair cut in May.
Eventually claiming that the robbery was out of necessity, Hall said he owed money to criminals who had tracked him down, but it was only when his wife (though the court said he was unmarried) was arrested that he pleaded guilty, cited as stating: “De-arrest my wife and I’ll tell you what you what you want to know.”
Defence counsel Matthew Kouphtrie said: “The greater part of his young life has been spent at Her Majesty’s pleasure. He doesn’t fear prison at all, he may even crave it. His only credit is his guilty plea. But the robbery does not have the hallmarks of a professionally planned robbery.
“So ill-prepared was he for his misadventure that he went into a shop to procure a bag. His disguise was inadequate - it fell from his face.
“After he was released in April 2009 it became apparent to him that his life may in fact be in danger. Malicious creditors had identified him for a punishment beating which is why he moved away from his family to this area. He paid his taxes, he was volunteering to help adults and children keep fit. Those that he owed money to in York detected him and pressured their debt. He reverted to type. He felt he had no option to commit this particular crime.”
But the court also discovered that Hall had bought a motorcycle for £1,400 pounds on the same day as the robbery as well as a £300 dog and a £600 tablet computer.
The judge added: “You committed this offence to pay off a debt owed to other criminals said the same thing when convicted of other robberies previously. You immediately went off and bought yourself a motorbike as a present to yourself. Hardly the actions of a man facing debts.”
In his statement, the Judge reasoned: “Andrew Hall, it is said by your counsel that this was not a sophisticated offence. But this remains a planned and deliberately executed offence.
“To acquire money and other property you are prepared to arm yourself and at least threaten willingly in order to get what you want.
“One has only to look at the video to see the way in which you carried out this without any hesitation. You didn’t falter at all, you didn’t get tongue tied and you threatened the life of each of them.”
Judge Rafferty also ignored advice that funds recovered form sale of the motorbike should be paid to the bank, and said the money should be split among the three ex-employees.
As a ‘high risk to the public’, Hall was given an extended sentence of nine years, to serve at least six and to be on licence for five years.
Commenting on the sentencing, Detective Inspector Shaun McElheron of Derbyshire Constabulary said: “Hall is a violent man with a violent history and the sentence of nine years reflects that, and the seriousness of the crime.
“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who rang us with information following this crime and also the proprietors of the shops and business premises who allowed us to view their CCTV systems. This information led to the identification of Hall.
“It’s also important that I commend the bravery of the RBS staff who were confronted with the intimidating sight of a man, with his face covered, pointing a handgun at them. The staff acted professionally and calmly.
“The public reaction reflected great community spiritedness by those who were incensed that someone would perform an armed robbery in their local bank.”