Shortly after midnight on 14 December, staff had just locked up at the Tesco petrol station in New Road, Durrington, and had set the alarm as per the daily routine.
They made their way across the main car park to their vehicle and got in. At this point, they were approached by an unknown man who smashed the driver’s side window with a hammer.
He pointed a gun in the face of the driver, demanded their personal belongings and told them to get out of the car.
He then ordered them back to the petrol station to deactivate the alarm, where he loaded a quantity of cash and cigarettes into two ‘bag for life’ bags before leaving the premises.
Unbeknown to him, the cash he stole had a tracker, which led police to a house in nearby Daisy Road.
Following a search of the property, officers discovered the two bags containing cash and cigarettes, clothing matching the description of clothing worn by the suspect during the offence, and a gas-powered air pistol which was concealed in a hole in the wall within the eaves.
A black balaclava was also seized from a vehicle parked outside.
Darren Burdfield, 39, a building labourer, of Barnet Way, Worthing, was arrested at the address and charged with robbery and possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
At Lewes Crown Court on 14 January – exactly one month after the offence – he was committed to five years’ imprisonment.
Chief Inspector Sarah Leadbeatter, District Commander for Adur, Worthing and Horsham, said: “This robbery occurred at a store in the centre of a densely populated residential area, and we understand the fear and concern this can cause the surrounding community.
“Thankfully, we were able to swiftly locate and arrest the defendant, and secure the evidence required for a timely prosecution.
“I’d like to commend the bravery of the two victims in this case. Though they were not seriously hurt, they have been understandably shaken by this incident.
“I’d also like to remind the public to remain vigilant – if you are aware of any suspicious activity, you can report it online or call 101. In an emergency, always dial 999.”