Belfast Telegraph

Limavady man convicted over police officer's death back in jail for two knife robbery bids

Conor Clarence
Conor Clarence

By Ashleigh McDonald

A man previously jailed for his involvement in the death of a PSNI officer has been sent back to prison for attempted robbery.

Conor Clarence (30) threatened to stab a pregnant shop manager during a three-day drink and drugs binge.

Yesterday he was handed a seven-year sentence.

A court heard how Clarence had consumed a "bewildering cocktail" of alcohol, heroin, cocaine and Diazepam when he attempted to rob two businesses in Limavady last June.

Both the DV8 store on Main Street and the nearby Craigs Service Station were targeted by a knife-wielding Clarence on a busy Saturday afternoon.

Jailing Clarence, Judge Brian Sherrard said small businesses and their employees are entitled to feel safe and should be protected by the courts.

Telling the Limavady man that his actions instilled fear, Judge Sherrard said half his sentence will be served in prison, with the remainder on licence.

Clarence had previously been jailed over the death of PSNI constable Philippa Reynolds (27), who was killed in 2013 when a stolen car crashed into the police vehicle in which she was a passenger.

Clarence was jailed for 21 months in February 2014 after he pleaded guilty to a charge of stealing a 4x4 car and guilty to a charge of allowing himself to be carried as a passenger in a stolen vehicle.

Yesterday he was in court again for sentencing over the attempted robberies.

Constable Philippa Reynolds, who was killed in 2013 when a stolen car struck the police vehicle she was in
Constable Philippa Reynolds, who was killed in 2013 when a stolen car struck the police vehicle she was in

The judge was told by prosecuting barrister Tessa Kitson that Clarence admitted five offences committed on June 23 last year - two counts of attempted robbery, two counts of possessing an offensive weapon with intent, and resisting police.

Ms Kitson said that on 2.25pm on the day in question the pregnant manager of the DV8 store was alerted to a person in the store wearing a grey beanie hat over his face with a hole in it.

The prosecutor said at first the manager believed it was a joke, but Clarence approached the counter holding a large knife and said: "Give me the money in the till or I will stab you."

She told Clarence there was no money in the till and he again made his threat to stab her. When she repeated herself, Clarence said: "I'm desperate, just give me the money."

Antrim Crown Court, sitting in Belfast, heard Clarence then turned away from the counter, picked up a plastic bag containing glass bottles and walked out.

Five minutes later he entered a service station 350 yards from DV8. An employee heard a man shouting in the store, wearing a grey hat and armed with a knife.

Ms Kitson said the shopkeeper "immediately recognised" Clarence as a regular customer.

When the shopkeeper told Clarence "I know who you are", Clarence left the store and the worker called the police.

He was detained in his Roeview Park home a short time later and during his arrest he struggled with an officer.

Ms Kitson said that during interviews Clarence gave a "no comment" response. She also revealed he had an "extensive" criminal record.

A defence barrister opened his submissions by saying Clarence had instructed him to apologise "not just to the court but also to the individuals in the shop in whom fear was instilled".

The barrister said Clarence was unaware the manager in DV8 was pregnant - something which he said caused "real regret" - adding his client's thinking was distorted after consuming a "bewildering cocktail" of drink and drugs "for three consecutive days".

Regarding the two attempted robberies, the defence barrister said they were unplanned, unsophisticated and there was "never an intent to use violence... his intention was just to scare".

Judge Sherrard spoke of the serious nature of the offences, and the fact a pregnant woman was threatened twice at knifepoint.

The judge told Clarence his actions instilled fear and both the manager and the shopkeeper were left shaken by their ordeal.

Accepting the robbery bids were "amateurish", Judge Sherrard added: "These attempted robberies were both effectively committed in the midst of a drugs binge."

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