Shopkeeper scared off knifeman with a broom

The Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington, where Warwick Crown Court is located.
The Warwickshire Justice Centre in Leamington, where Warwick Crown Court is located.

A would-be robber who tried to hold up a Leamington shopkeeper at knifepoint fled empty handed when his victim bravely grabbed a broom to fend him off.

And Warwick Crown Court heard that Calum Reilly had carried out the robbery attempt straight after leaving a nearby appointment with his probation officer.

Reilly (21) of no fixed address, but previously of Goode Close, Warwick, was jailed for three years after pleading guilty to attempted robbery and possessing a bladed article.

Prosecutor Ian Windridge said that on July 8 Kewal Rai was behind the counter of his family-run shop, Rai Supermarket, in Willes Road, Leamington, during the afternoon when Reilly came in.

Reilly, wearing a black hooded top with the hood up, came in and, keeping his head down, made his way around the store.

Because of the way he was acting, Mr Rai kept an eye on him with the aid of the store’s CCTV camera as Reilly selected a packet of crisps, a can of pop and a pair of gloves.

He put the items down on the counter, and was told by Mr Rai, whose wife was in the rear storeroom, it would be £2.59.

But instead of paying, Reilly almost immediately pulled out a knife and held it right up to the shopkeeper’s face, telling him: “I want money. I’ll kill you.”

Mr Rai was extremely shocked, but instead of complying with the demand, he bravely grabbed a broom from behind the counter and swung it at Reilly to fend him off.

On facing resistance, Reilly abandoned his attempt and made off from the shop, leaving behind the items he had taken to the counter.

Hearing him shout out, Mr Rai’s wife came into the shop, and they called the police and handed over the CCTV recording which showed Reilly taking the knife from his trousers and holding it just 2-3 inches from the shopkeeper’s face.

But it was also clear he was not wearing gloves at the time, so the police checked the items he had taken to the counter and found his fingerprints on one of them.

When he was arrested Reilly told the police he had cycled to Leamington for a probation appointment, after which he had cycled to the shop.

But Reilly claimed: “I was in the shop and I had my hood up, and he started something. Why would I rob him when I was buying something? I can’t go back to prison, I’ve done things to sort my life out.”

Reilly, who had previous convictions for robbery and burglary, added that he had pulled out the knife, a penknife, because Mr Rai was delaying serving him – and denied he had done so in an attempt to rob.

Nick Devine, defending, said: “Mr Reilly had been out of prison from his last sentence for about a year, and things were looking quite good. He kept himself out of trouble, and was in a relationship and had got work.

“He went in with his hood up, and it was pretty plain the shopkeeper, correctly as it turned out, was suspicious of him.

“Having selected items for which he intended to pay, he suddenly tried to carry out this robbery. He can’t explain why he did that, and plainly it was a terrifying moment for Mr Rai.

“But it has to be said that as soon as Mr Rai picked up the broom and showed resistance, Mr Reilly left the shop.”

Jailing Reilly, Recorder Christopher Goodchild told him: “At the age of 21 you are getting to be quite an experienced criminal and getting quite an experience of being in custody.

“Mr Rai acted extremely bravely, which is one reason there is not the completed act.

“Small shopkeepers like Mr Rai are the backbone of our communities. They are often working for long hours on their own, and that’s why they deserve protection from people like you.

“You knew what you were doing that day and you knew, because you’ve been in custody, the sort of tariff you would get for doing what you did.”