Published: 00:01, 01 July 2014
Armed robber Anthony Shaw thought he had escaped justice for a series of raids he carried out 15 years ago.
The 43-year-old father struck at six small stores in Canterbury, Folkestone, Eythorne, Margate and Sittingbourne in 15 days.
But then the former soldier fled to London after pocketing £1,200 from the attacks – including one on a terrified 13-year-old schoolgirl.
He began a new life as a crane driver with a new partner as police hunted the man who had left his fingerprints on newspapers and a chocolate bar.
Now a judge has heard that it was only earlier this year when he was questioned by officers over a minor domestic incident - and his DNA taken as a routine procedure - that his secret past was revealed.
And although the domestic case was later dropped, by February this year he had been linked with the knifepoint attacks in 1998 and 1999.
Officers raided a house in Burlington Gardens in Margate and questioned him about the unsolved raids.
The first of the robberies was at Derringstone Stores, Derringstone Hill, Barham, on December 22 at 9.40am, when Shaw went to pay for an Independent newspaper.
He pointed a 12-inch knife at owner Carole Howard and demanded money before leaving with £170 and disappearing along Brick Lane.
Mrs Howard was reported as shocked but unhurt and police issued an image of the suspect.
A week later Shaw struck again at Densole Newsagents in Canterbury Road, Folkestone, where a woman was working alone at 5.50pm.
She was grabbed around the neck by the knife-wielding Shaw, who shouted: “Give me the money. Open the till.”
He then left with between £350 and £400.
Two days later he targeted Tyler Hill Post Office in Hackington Road, Canterbury.
After approaching a female shopkeeper with a bar of chocolate, he pulled out a knife and took £60 from the till.
On January 8, 1999, a 13-year-old girl was working alone at Eythorne Village Shop and Post Office in Sandwich Road, Dover, when Shaw pounced.
Brandishing a knife, he grabbed a newspaper and told the girl he wasn’t going to hurt her but wanted cash from the till. She screamed and he ran away, leaving his fingerprints on the newspaper.
Three days later, at Male Newsagents in Thanet Road, Margate, Shaw took a copy of the Daily Star and offered to pay 30p for it, but told the female shop assistant: “Get back and I won’t hurt you!”
He then held the knife close to her face before taking the cash.
The same day Shaw went to the Fine Food Store in Tonge Road, Sittingbourne, where he picked up a copy of The Sun.
He was told it would cost him 28p...but then grabbed the money, leaving his fingerprints on the paper.
Prosecutor Tony Prosser said DNA linked him to four attacks which began on December, 22 but the modus operadi was similar in all six attacks.
He said that despite the raids happening 15 years ago, three of the victims – one of whom lives in New Zealand – revealed they were still suffering trauma because of the incidents.
Shaw, a £700-a-week crane driver who now lives in Acton, London, was jailed for three years after admitting 12 offences of robbery and possessing a knife.
Crispian Cartwright, defending, said: “These were the acts of a desperate man. He was a desperate man rather than a cunning criminal. But he is not for a moment putting it forward as an excuse.
“He knows what he did was terrible and he knows he must now pay the price.
“He is aware of just how appallingly he has behaved. He is absolutely remorseful" - Crispian Cartwright, defending
He said Shaw had started a new life in London after leaving Thanet.
He added: “He is aware of just how appallingly he has behaved. He is absolutely remorseful.”
Mr Cartwright said Shaw had admitted what he had done despite it being “ancient history”, adding: “It might have been tempting for a less scrupulous individual to contest this matter.”
He said the robber had served with the British Army in Northern Ireland and was stationed in the Falklands but “felt lost after he left and everything went wrong”.
Mr Cartwright added: “He has since lived a blameless life for the past 15 years after this spate of offending came to an abrupt end.
"It started suddenly and it was a short and horrible chapter in his life. which he knows he can’t expunge.”
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