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Betting shop robber who forced worker to open safe at knife-point in Gravesend jailed

A robber who forced a woman to open a safe at knife-point while they were locked in a betting shop has been jailed for six years.

John Saunders targeted the bookmakers in King Street, Gravesend, at around 8pm on Monday March 11, running inside and immediately jumping over the counter to threaten a shop worker.

The 36-year-old, of Tennyson Avenue in Canterbury, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court yesterday, having pleaded guilty to robbery, threatening a person with a bladed article and a burglary which took place at a nearby community group.

John Saunders who forced a woman to open a safe at knife-point has been jailed for . Picture: Kent Police
John Saunders who forced a woman to open a safe at knife-point has been jailed for . Picture: Kent Police

A charge of false imprisonment, which Saunders denied, was allowed to lie on file.

The court heard there were no customers present when Saunders raided the bookmakers and that he went on to force the member of staff to open a safe after producing a knife.

The safe operated on a 15-minute time delay and, while the offender waited for it to open, he forced the employee to lock the shop and empty four fruit machines.

He also went on to damage several CCTV cameras and monitors before leaving the scene on foot with a large quantity of cash.

In addition to the robbery, Saunders also admitted a burglary at the Masonic Hall in Wrotham Road, Gravesend, on the same date - gaining entry by forcing open the shutters before stealing a small quantity of cash from a raffle box.

"Saunders subjected the robbery victim to a prolonged and terrifying ordeal during which she had every reason to hear her life was at risk..." - Detective Constable Dan Bister

In addition to these offences, six commercial burglaries, committed in Canterbury on March 9, were taken into consideration as part of the sentencing.

These offences saw three beauty salons, two pubs and a restaurant targeted.

Detective Constable Dan Bister, Kent Police’s investigating officer for the case, said: "Saunders subjected the robbery victim to a prolonged and terrifying ordeal during which she had every reason to hear her life was at risk.

"His complete lack of respect to the wider public is further shown by his admission to numerous commercial burglaries, which caused significant disruption to the businesses affected.

"There can be no tolerance shown towards individuals who choose to threaten people with weapons and it is entirely fitting that he has received this sentence."

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