Armed robber had cardiac arrest
Published 15/11/2013 | 05:21
An armed robber suffered a cardiac arrest and died when he was confronted by a have-a-go hero during a bungled raid on a bookmakers, an inquest heard.
Career criminal Alan Levers, 50, was wearing a black gas mask and carrying an imitation handgun when he was wrestled to the ground by a brave punter.
The man, known only as Robert, told an inquest he leapt into action when Levers stormed into the Ladbrokes branch in Plymouth, Devon, shortly before 7pm on January 25 this year.
Robert grabbed the robber in an arm lock around his throat and wrestled him to the floor - just seconds after Levers pointed a fake 9mm pistol at the betting shop manager and demanded cash.
Two brothers, also in the shop on Crownhill Road, went to help and knocked the pistol out of the gunman's hand, before holding the father of three down until police arrived.
Police noticed that Levers, an alcoholic and former heroin addict, was not responding to their commands. They then removed his gas mask and found he was unconscious.
An inquest in Plymouth heard paramedics were unable to revive Levers and he was pronounced dead later that night.
Ian Arrow, coroner for Plymouth and South West Devon, recorded a narrative conclusion after hearing there was no evidence those restraining Levers committed any offence.
Robert, who asked not to give his full name publicly, told the hearing he was playing on a gaming machine near the counter of the bookies when Levers entered.
As the man approached the desk, Robert noticed a 9mm pistol in his right hand pocket and decided to act when the man pulled it out.
"At that point I decided on instinct, jumped on him from behind and wrestled him to the floor," Robert said. "I was frantically trying to get the gun out of his hand.
"The man was struggling quite considerably and I was scared to let him up because I was concerned he might have had potentially some unconventional weapon like a knife or a screwdriver that could do as much damage."
Robert said he and another man held the man down and noticed he had stopped struggling but "presumed he had accepted defeat".
"He was going to be apprehended by the police and he realised he was never going to win," he added.
CCTV footage of the incident, captured on two camera inside the bookies, was also played to the inquest.
John Doyle, who was in the branch with his brother Patrick when Levers walked in, witnessed Robert leap into action.
"I said to my brother Paddy 'Get out of the shop, he's got a gun'," he said in a written statement.
"Before I had reached the shop door, I saw the robber raise the gun from waist level to chest level and point it directly at the cashier.
"I knew straight away this was an armed robbery and I was in complete fear for mine and everyone else's safety inside the shop. I was totally fearful that I would get shot.
"I saw the man who had been using the gaming machine move very quickly across the shop floor and take the robber down to the ground.
"He did this using his right arm going across the man's neck. A lot of force was used to get the man to the ground.
"Seeing the robber still had the gun I ran back towards them and as I did I kicked the robber to the right side of his ribcage to try and get him to release the gun.
"He was struggling to get to his feet. I punched out at him several times at his hand to try and make him release the gun. He did not let go so I shouted over to my brother Paddy to help us get the gun off him and I said 'Stamp on his hand'.
"Paddy kicked the gun out of his right hand. The offender was struggling for a few minutes and then seemed to relax.
"There was no malice or going over the top from the man assisting me in detaining the male and he, the same as me, was trying to prevent any serious harm or loss of life coming to anyone in the shop or the surrounding area."
Ladbrokes worker Adam Davies described the incident: "He said 'I want the money now' or something similar - I wasn't really scared I was more startled."
Two uniformed police officers arrived at the scene and conducted CPR on Levers after discovering he was unconscious.
A post-mortem examination later found Levers had 289mg of alcohol in 100ml blood - meaning he was more than three and a half times the drink drive limit.
Pathologist Dr Russell Delaney said Levers had suffered a cardiac arrest after the gas mask had restricted his breathing.
"His chest has also been compressed during a period of restraint and the restriction of chest movements reduces the effectiveness of breathing," he added.
He gave the cause of death as a combination of chest compression, restricted breathing and alcohol intake.
After investigating the incident police fully exonerated those involved in restraining Levers.
Levers' partner Julie Lidstone provided a lengthy statement to the inquest, which detailed how he had been trying to overcome his alcohol addiction but was short of money because he had been unable to work as a roofer because of bad weather.
Speaking after the inquest, Ms Lidstone said: "I am sorry for what the witnesses were put through at Ladbrokes.
"What happened should never have happened in the first place and Alan paid the ultimate price."