A former soldier who staged a series of knifepoint robberies has been jailed for four years at Lincoln Crown Court.
James Barton twice raided his local village shop and then carried out a terrifying raid at the Well Pharmacy in Hornsby Road, Grantham, when he held a customer at knife-point.
The court heard that at the time of the offences Barton was suffering from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of his experiences in the British Army and had turned to drink.
Barton served in the Army for 15 years including two tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan.
A psychiatric report, prepared for the sentencing hearing, detailed how Barton had been left with severe PTSD as a result of his experiences.
Although he sought help from a number of different agencies he was told that his symptoms were so severe they were not able to help him.
It was immediately after his final plea for help was rejected that he staged the first of the robberies.
Andrew Scott, prosecuting, told a previous hearing that during the incident at the Grantham pharmacy Barton grabbed a female customer in a headlock and held the knife to her neck demanding that staff follow his orders.
Mr Scott said: “He had a hood over his head and his face was covered by what looked like a scarf.
“The relief manager was serving a customer at the time and had her back to him. When she turned round to the counter she saw the defendant was holding a carrier bag and had a knife.
“He said he wanted all the opiates in the bag. He then grabbed the customer in a headlock and held the knife to her face.
“He said to the relief manager that she had 10 seconds to act or he would stab the customer.”
The member of staff opened the safe and as she was putting drugs inside Barton held the knife against the customer’s neck saying “You’ve got 10 seconds or I’ll stab you.”
The “petrified” worker filled the bag with tablets which Barton grabbed and then ran out of the premises.
Later the same day police traced Barton and arrested him.
Mr Scott said the customer feared she was going to be killed by Barton and has since suffered nightmares. The staff member was also badly affected by what happened.
When Barton was interviewed by police he said he had been in a meeting with his support worker. He said he had been drinking vodka and had no knowledge of the robbery.
The court was told that Barton was on court bail at the time after being charged with two knife robberies of The Crescent stores in Leasingham.
When he was interviewed about those matters he told police he had been drinking for several days and had no memory of what happened.
Mr Scott told the court: “He admitted he had an issue with alcohol. He said he drank to self-medicate for the trauma he suffered as a result of events he witnessed while on active service. He said he didn’t get help for post traumatic stress disorder and turned to drink.”
Mr Scott said that Barton carried out the two robberies in Leasingham within 24 hours of each other.
On the first occasion he threatened staff with a knife before taking a bottle of vodka. The following morning he returned and walked into the staff area behind the counter. During the incident that followed he brandished a 15-inch long knife telling the staff member “You try to stop me and I’ll hurt you.” He then made off with two bottles of vodka.
James Barton, 36, of Dean Close, Leasingham, admitted robbery and two charges of threatening a person with a blade at the Well Pharmacy in Grantham as a result of the incident on December 19.
He pleaded guilty to two charges of robbery at The Crescent Store in St Andrews Crescent, Leasingham in November and two linked charges of threatening a person with a blade. He also admitted two charges of theft of vodka from the same shop on earlier occasions.