THE getaway driver in an armed raid on a security van needed the money to visit his terminally ill son in hospital, a court heard.

Gary Allen, 41, was jailed for 32 months after admitting the robbery he and 27-year-old Ricky Maidment carried out on a G4S van outside Tesco Express in Fordingbridge, in which the latter threatened a guard with a machete.

They made off in Allen’s Land Rover with more than £18,000 in a cash box but were arrested just minutes after the incident on March 5 this year, thanks to a courageous driver who followed them.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard Allen, who has no previous convictions, agreed to do the job so he and his wife could afford trips to hospital to visit his 19-year-old step-son Jake, who was given only six months to live earlier this year.

Jailing Allen on Friday, Judge Samuel Wiggs said his case was “exceptionally tragic” and the jail term was “the very least” he could impose.

“I am sorry that you have let your family down in this way, I’m sure you are too,” he said.

“I am sorry for the inevitable effect this will have on your son.”

Maidment also pleaded guilty to robbery and was jailed for four years and eight months, with a concurrent one year jail term for possessing a blade.

In mitigation, Robert Grey told the court that self-employed tree surgeon and gardener Allen had met Maidment at Salisbury Hospital – where Jake was being treated for cystic fibrosis – some 18 months before the raid.

He said Allen initially refused Maidment’s offer of the then-unspecified job, but when Jake was moved to Southampton Hospital a year and a half later he found he couldn’t afford the regular visits from his home in Fairfield Road, Salisbury.

Therefore, Allen agreed to drive Maidment, of Rollestone Street, to and from the scene, said Mr Grey.

Representing Maidment – who has a long criminal record including a serious violent offence – Frank Abbot said the robbery had been masterminded by a third party who recruited his client due to his long record.

A third man was questioned by police but has not been charged.

Both men were ordered to pay the £120 victim surcharge.

• Courageous dad in high-speed chase

A HIGH-speed car chase ensued when a dad-of two turned have-a-go hero spotted Maidment menacing the guard with a machete and pursued the pair out into the countryside.

Philip Hoare, 41, had taken a wrong turning and ended up in Fordingbridge by mistake when he saw the raid and followed Allen’s car in his van as they fled, reporting their progress to the police.

“I can’t stand bullies and this guy had a machete over this poor security man’s head, I had to do something,” said Mr Hoare, a contract manager for a demolition company.

“I don’t consider myself a hero. I saw him run and I just chased him. I wasn’t scared, autopilot just took over.”

Thanks to his efforts the robbers were soon arrested, and the money recovered.