A man who tried to rob a shop in South Tyneside by pretending to be armed with a shotgun has been jailed for seven-and-a-half years.
Peter Reynolds taped two pieces of piping together before he and an accomplice burst into the McColls general dealers shop in Abbey Drive, Jarrow, on November 5 .
Newcastle Crown Court heard Reynolds, of Northbourne Road, Jarrow, was wearing a balaclava and terrified the shop assistant with the self-made 'weapon' while a five-year-old girl was being served.
The court heard a courageous woman customer noticed that the gun was fake and pulled the balaclava from his face - keeping it as a vital piece of DNA evidence.
The 51-year-old then followed the heroic woman out of the store and fled the scene.
After customers correctly selected him at an identity parade, Reynolds pleaded guilty to charges of attempted robbery, possession of an imitation firearm and possession of an offensive weapon.
Prosecutor Mark Giuliani told the court how police quickly caught up with Reynolds at his home address where he was found washing his clothes in attempt to get rid of any evidence.
He said: "There were seven children aged between five and 13 in the shop. The fact that there were children in there is an extremely aggravating feature.
"They targeted a vulnerable premises, knowing there would be children present."
The court also heard how the shopkeeper was so shaken up by the incident that she vomited as she relivied the horrifying moments while giving her victim impact statement.
Another statement, made by the customer, read: "I did not feel scared when I realised that it was not a real gun, but my daughter did."
Defence barrister Jamie Adams said: "This was not a sophisticated professional robbery. It was ill conceived and badly carried out.
"It is always going to be inevitable that distress is caused. Without it he would not be able to carry out this type of offence."
Jailing Reynolds for seven and a half years, Recorder William Lowe QC told him: "You pose a high risk of serious harm to the public.
"The question I have to ask myself is if there should be a sentence of life imprisonment. But I shy away from that.
"This undoubtedly was an imitation fire arm, there was no doubt.
"So I have come to the conclusion that I will not pass a sentence of life imprisonment."