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Pair jailed after knife put to man's throat in drink and drug-fuelled raid

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man and woman who hatched a plan to rob an east Belfast filling station in a "drunken, drug-induced haze" and then targeted the premises armed with a knife and hammer have been jailed.

Deborah McCully (29) and 27-year-old William Meekin were so intoxicated when they were arrested that they were unfit for interview for more than 15 hours.

Jailing the pair, Belfast Recorder Judge David McFarland said people who armed themselves with weapons then proceeded to target local businesses staffed by vulnerable employees should expect to go to prison.

During yesterday's sentencing, Belfast Crown Court heard the sole member of staff not only had a knife held to his throat inside the filling station, but was also ordered out to the bank machine and forced to withdraw £270 from his parents' account.

McCully, from Witch Road in Kilmarnock, was handed a sentence of six years and four months. Co-accused Meekin, from Ballybuttle Cottages in Millisle, was given a sentence of six years and eight months.

The Scottish woman and Co Down man were informed they would serve half their sentence in custody and the remainder on licence.

Judge McFarland was told by Crown prosecutor Kate McKay that police were alerted to a robbery in progress at the Spar filling station on the Upper Newtownards Road just before midnight on May 17, 2016.

Armed officers responded to the call and at the scene arrested McCully and Meekin, who were masked and wearing latex gloves.

The court heard that while McCully brandished a knife that was held to the staff member's neck, Meekin armed himself with a hammer.

Meekin ordered the employee to open the till, with both money and cigarettes handed over.

Meekin also told the employee to hand his wallet over and then forced him to withdraw £270 from the forecourt ATM, at one point asking him: "Do you want to be sent to intensive care in the Ulster Hospital?"

Defence barrister Michael Boyd, representing McCully, said: "The plan seems to have been hatched during a drunken, drug-induced haze."

Mr Boyd added that while McCully knew the raid was a bad idea, there was "a voice in her head telling her to keep on with it because she needed the money".

Solicitor Jonathan Burke, representing Meekin, said last May's incident came while his client was experiencing a "significant and massive breakdown" when he was "going off the rails" and consuming "upwards of 40 to 50 Diazepam tablets per day".

Jailing the pair, Judge McFarland said that the incident must have been very frightening for the member of staff.

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