Armed robber who targeted a South Shields home has been jailed for ten years

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An armed robber who dragged a teenage girl through an underpass and demanded she handed over money has been jailed.

John Spedding unleashed the first of four terrifying attacks in November last year which included targeting another youngster who had witnessed the altercation.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 29-year-old's crime spree also saw him hold a knife to a shop assistant's neck while he demanded cash from the till.

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The following day he armed himself with a blade and targeted a separate shop, before going on to burgle a house in South Shields.

He has now been jailed for ten years with a five-year licence period after admitting two counts of robbery, two attempted robberies, three counts of possessing a knife, and one dwelling house burglary.

Referring to the attempted robberies on of two teenagers, prosecutor Rachel Glover said: "On the 10th of November last year at around quarter to three in the afternoon (the complainant), who was 18-years-old at the time, was walking near to Gateshead College via an underpass when she was dragged back down to the floor.

Newcastle Crown Court. Photo: Google Maps.Newcastle Crown Court. Photo: Google Maps.
Newcastle Crown Court. Photo: Google Maps.

"She fell to the floor and a male wearing a dark-coloured hoodie grabbed at her and tried to put his hand over her mouth when she screamed.

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"The male told her if she did not stop screaming, he would have to cut her and he would also cut her if she didn't hand over money. She pleaded with him to let go and noticed he was holding a knife."

The court heard a second female, aged 17, was walking towards the underpass when she noticed Spedding grabbing the first victim.

Ms Glover said the second teen ran away but as she did so she felt a presence behind her and when she looked she saw the defendant following from behind.

She was able to make off to meet a relative and after looking at CCTV the police were able to identify Spedding from previous dealings they'd had with him.

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Referring to the victim statement of the first teen, who was dragged backwards, Ms Glover said: "After this happened she was terrified and she actually thought she was going to die.

"Since it happened to her she hasn't been sleeping well."

The second female said she didn't feel safe following the terrifying ordeal.

Just two days later, Spedding, of no fixed abode, entered a Morrisons Daily where he grabbed a female store assistant and demanded she opened the till.

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Ms Glover said: "At around half-past nine in the evening (the complainant) was behind the counter, which is situated at the front of the shop, when a male entered the store, got behind the counter, before holding her in a headlock, before holding a knife to her throat while demanding she opened the till."

The court heard the worker initially struggled but eventually opened the till and as she did so Spedding replied: "Next time open the f****** till quicker."

Spedding was later recognised by the victim at an identity parade and in an impact statement she said she had to quit her job following the incident.

She added that she suffered reoccurring nightmares.

Spedding's crime spree didn't stop there and the following day on November 13 he threatened two shop workers at a Spar with a knife.

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Ms Glover said: "The defendant approached them carrying a knife and demanded they open the till.

"He said I'm sorry I don't want to be doing this but I need the money."

Spedding then became agitated that the till wouldn't open and he instead stole six packets of cigarettes and numerous bottles of alcohol before fleeing the scene.

The following day the defendant was caught stealing a lap-top bag from a shared accommodation on Frederick Street in South Shields during the middle of the night.

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Passing sentence, Judge Edward Bindloss said: "There were five females, two of them were young women in an underpass near Gateshead College. They were in a secluded area, they were vulnerable.

"The other three women were at their place of work in the evening, working unsociable hours.

"They were providing a service to the public and the court needs to be protecting these who are working unsociable hours to provide a public service.

"You had knives on these occasions as well."

Vic Laffey, defending, said his client, who has over 20 previous convictions, had been blighted by drug addiction but was now receiving assistance in prison.