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Man admits attempted off-licence robbery in Newry after finding God

A man who found God and confessed to trying to rob an off-licence at knifepoint because he
A man who found God and confessed to trying to rob an off-licence at knifepoint because he "could no longer live with the guilt" has been handed a three-year sentence

By Paul Higgins

A man who found God and confessed to trying to rob an off-licence at knifepoint because he "could no longer live with the guilt" has been handed a three-year sentence.

Ordering Tomasz Ragkowski to spend 18 months in jail and the same period on supervised release, Newry Crown Court Judge Gordon Kerr QC told the 34-year-old he was getting substantial credit for confessing to an offence when the police trail had "gone cold".

"The major factor that goes in your favour is that but for your decision to admit to this, you would not be before the court - that is strong mitigation," the judge said.

Ragkowski, of no fixed abode, admitted to a single count of attempting to rob Francis Willis of cash on September 7, 2016.

Prosecuting lawyer Stephen McCourt told the judge how Mr Willis was working alone in an off-licence on Canal Street in Newry when a man entered the shop and bought a two-litre bottle of cider.

As the man went to leave, however, he turned back and produced a large kitchen knife, which he waved about in a slashing motion as he demanded money from the cash register in an "eastern European accent".

Mr McCourt said, fearing for his safety, Mr Willis backed off but nevertheless sustained a superficial cut to his shoulder.

Despite showing his assailant the register, the would-be robber fled empty-handed.

The knife and a scarf were found discarded in a nearby garden, but the lawyer conceded that, despite police inquiries regarding forensic examinations and CCTV footage, the trail had gone cold.

That was until February this year, when Ragkowski was in court on an unrelated matter and confessed to police "that he had been the male involved in the incident".

Arrested and questioned, he made "full admissions" to the attempted robbery, and Mr McCourt confirmed to the judge that "but for his plea there would not be a case" against him.

Defence counsel Kevin Magill revealed that, having found religion, Ragkowski "could no longer live with the guilt of what he had done and, essentially, fell on his sword" to confess.

"It's certainly an unusual case," conceded the lawyer.

Jailing Ragkowski, Judge Kerr told him that had he completed the robbery, he would have faced a sentence of around eight years but, given it was an attempted robbery and his confessions, he was giving him substantial reduction of the sentence.

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