An armed robber has been jailed after he stormed a bookmakers and threatened staff with a BB gun – before saying “SORRY” and fleeing the scene.
Richard Soltanpur has been sentenced to almost three years behind bars after the terrifying raid at Coral in the Fawdon area of Newcastle.
Newcastle Crown Court was told how the thief targeted the premises on March 20 in the middle of the day.
CCTV footage played in court showed the 42-year-old calmly walked up to the counter, pull out a handgun and demand the lone staff member to hand over cash.
His victim quickly turned over £175 before Soltanpur stuffed it in his rucksack and began to leave – only to turn back and say “sorry, I’m desperate”.
Police were called and expert camera operators then tracked the gunman’s movements as he caught a Metro.
When he arrived at Kingston Park station, armed officers were waiting there to arrest him. When he saw officers he confessed “yes, it was me”.
The firearm was seized and found to be a gas powered BB gun that was loaded and cocked. A quantity of cash was also seized.
Soltanpur, of Peldon Close, Longbenton, was later charged with robbery and possessing a firearm.
He admitted the offences at Newcastle Crown Court and on Monday (August 24) he was sentenced to two years and eight months behind bars.
Investigating officer Detective Constable Nicola Smith has today (Tuesday) welcomed the lengthy custodial sentence handed down by the judge.
She said: “This was a brazen theft in the middle of the day that has left the staff member fearful for his life.
“It must have been terrifying to be confronted with what looked very much like a real firearm and events of that day will stay with him for a long time.
“Richard Soltanpur may have shown remorse for his actions but we have found evidence of him posing for pictures with the firearm in question.
“This was not an opportunistic theft and there was a degree of planning to this robbery as he needed to pay off a pile of drug debts.
“I welcome the significant custodial sentence handed down by the judge and hope it brings some comfort to the victim of his crime.”
In a victim impact statement read during the sentencing hearing, the staff member at the bookmakers said he feared for his life.
He said: “The whole incident shocked me. I was shaken by the incident and the fact he was pointing a gun at me.
“I just wanted to give him the money so he would leave. I was fearful he would shoot me or the gun would go off.”
The court heard Soltanpur had run up a drugs debt before he carried out the offence and was committing the robbery to pay what he owed.