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Staff recall terrifying moments of armed robbery at Canterbury jewellers

Stilwell Jewellers shortly after the armed robbery in November 2008.
Stilwell Jewellers shortly after the armed robbery in November 2008.

Stilwell Jewellers in Canterbury shortly after the armed robbery in November 2008.

EXCLUSIVE by Adam Williams

Two staff at a Canterbury jewellers have recalled fearing for their lives as a robber held them at knifepoint and stole more than £120,000 worth of cash and stock.

Stilwell Jewellers employees Charlotte Stilwell and Karen Haines were locked in a back room and forced to empty a window display, a till and a safe into two carrier bags by robber Stephen Baker.

Baker had gone in to the Burgate shop just days before the robbery on November 3 last year claiming to be looking at a ring and matching earrings for his girlfriend.

A jury at Canterbury Crown Court this week found the 46-year-old guilty of robbery and possessing offensive and prohibited weapons.

After giving evidence at the trial Charlotte, 35, and Karen, 48, have spoken exclusively about the afternoon they will never forget.

As he walked through the door at 2.30pm, Karen immediately recognised Baker as a customer from the week before.

She said: “I asked him if he had come back in to look at the same jewellery and I went round to see what he had been looking at in the window display.

“Charlotte then went over to help him out and pick out the ring from the display. He then confronted her with a 10-inch stainless steel kitchen knife.”

Baker threw a leather shoulder bag on to the floor and shouted at Charlotte to fill it with diamonds and gold.

Terrified and shaking, she kept dropping items and Karen asked him if she should lock the front door.

She added: “He said no and that if anybody came in, he would kill them.

“From the start of it all, you had a feeling that you only had to make one false move and he would have launched at you.”

After emptying the front window display, the pair were pushed into the back room, where Baker’s attentions turned to the safe.

“He wanted everything that was in there and the till, which was between £800 and £1,000,” said Charlotte.

“He kept asking questions about the CCTV and if it was linked up to the police station or a control room.

“He wanted to know where the phone was and wanted it cut off at the mains.

“I went back to the front of the shop to disconnect it and I could have run out of the door at that stage, but I wasn’t going to leave Karen in there alone with a man holding a knife."

Before leaving, Baker picked up the shop’s phone to check if Charlotte had disconnected the line.

Realising his DNA would be on the receiver, he cut it off and placed it in the bag with the rest of the jewellery.

Karen and Charlotte were locked into a back room, as Baker left through the front. Hearing the door alarm go, the pair immediately crawled out of a back window, through the back garden and knocked on the window of a nearby dentists, who raised the alarm.

Read this week's Kentish Gazette for the full story and more reaction.

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