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Gas mask raider 'held face down'

An armed raider who tried to rob a bookies died after he was disarmed and restrained by members of the public, an inquest has been told.

Alan Levers, 50, from Plymouth, was wearing a gas mask when he went into the Ladbrokes branch on Crownhill Road in the Devon city shortly before 7pm last Friday.

An inquest into his death was opened on Thursday afternoon, at which it was heard a post-mortem examination had yet to establish a cause of death.

Speaking at the hearing, police inspector Steve Brownlow said the unemployed man was carrying an imitation pistol as he attempted to raid the shop.

He added: "He (Levers) was restrained and disarmed by three members of the public. He was held face down on the floor."

Mr Brownlow said police officers later handcuffed and arrested Levers while he was on the floor, but noticed he was not moving.

"They (police) removed the mask and commenced CPR," Mr Brownlow said. "Paramedics attended but he was pronounced dead at the scene." The time of death was confirmed at 7.37pm and Levers' body was identified the following day by his girlfriend.

Coroner Ian Arrow adjourned the hearing for a later date.

Police praised "brave" members of the public after the incident, saying those who restrained Levers would not have known if the gun was a fake.

The incident had been voluntarily referred to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, as officers from Devon and Cornwall Police had arrested Levers at the scene before his death was confirmed.

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