Belfast Telegraph

Armed raid thug who threatened Safeway garage staff jailed

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man who took part in an armed robbery – during which staff were told they would have their "brains blown out" if they didn't hand over cash – has been jailed for three-and-a-half years.

Thomas Valliday, from Lady Street in Belfast, will spend three-and-a-half years in custody and four-and-a-half years on supervised licence upon his release, after appearing in court on a single charge of robbery.

Valliday and an accomplice, who has never been apprehended, targeted the Safeway garage on the Springfield Road on the evening of November 26 last year.

The co-accused entered the premises brandishing what was either a real or an imitation sawn-off shotgun, threatening both staff and customers, while Valliday left the premises with just over £3,000 in cash in a plastic bag.

Belfast Crown Court heard that while Valliday – who spent that afternoon drinking cider and vodka in the City Cemetery – was apprehended a short distance from the garage trying to hide the money down the back of his trousers, his armed accomplice remains at large.

Crown prosecutor David Russell said the pair struck at around 8.30pm when the shop was busy with customers. Valliday's accomplice produced the gun, waved it around and threatened staff. One member of staff said the gun was pointed at her and a colleague, with the robber shouting at them to put money in a bag or their "brains would be blown out".

While these threats were being made, Valliday grabbed a bag from behind the counter, which was then filled with just over £3,000 in cash.

Mr Russell told the court that an employee managed to press a panic button. The pair fled the scene, but Valliday was apprehended in nearby Cavendish Street.

Mr Russell told Judge Philpott the robbery would have been a "terrifying incident for the staff and customers".

"All the witnesses at the scene believed a real gun was being pointed," he added.

Defence lawyer Clive Neville spoke of his client's limited intelligence, low IQ and alcoholism, and also revealed Valliday had a reading age of a seven-year-old.

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