SHOP staff at three Bournemouth businesses were left “terrified” and “petrified” when they were faced threats of being stabbed with a syringe by a robber as he demanded money from the till.

Darren Philip Brooks targeted three retailers in the space of seven days in the run up to Christmas last year.

The 51-year-old, who is also known as Darren Ginbey, used a Beryl bike as a mode of transport to assist his offending.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard that he robbed McColl's in Commercial Road on December 15, Smiggle in Old Christchurch Road on December 18 and Central Convenience Store in Westbourne on December 21.

Brooks was put behind bars for 10 years and made subject to a four-year extended licence period after a judge deemed him to be a “dangerous offender”.

Bournemouth Echo: Darren BrooksDarren Brooks

Prosecuting, Simon Foster said each robbery had a similar theme with the defendant entering the store and making threats to staff. One incident targeted a female member of staff who was working alone.

At McColl's, Brooks put his hand through the Covid protective screen and demanded the money.

“He said he had a syringe and, or, needle and said he would stab her unless she gave him the money,” said Mr Forster.

The prosecutor said the member of staff “genuinely believed they were going to be stabbed” and handed over around £600 before the defendant made off on a Beryl bike.

The court heard that during the robbery of Smiggle, Brooks told the female member of staff “give me the money from the till or I will stab you with this dirty syringe”.

Mr Forster said the shop worker was “petrified” and gave the defendant the £80 that was in the till. Brooks asked “where the rest was” but was told there was no more cash on the premises.

The shop worker then left the store calling for help from the premises next door before Brooks fled again on a Beryl bike.

On December 21, the Central Convenience Store employee thought the defendant wanted cigarettes when he greeted him.

Brooks followed her behind the counter and demanded that she open the till.

When she refused, he took the matter into his own hands by trying to force it open with a screwdriver before ripping it off its mount. He went outside to where the Beryl bike was waiting but he was stopped from riding off so he ran with the till.

A member of the public intervened and Brooks dropped the till and left the area empty handed. He was subsequently arrested and provided no comment in interview.

Victim did not want to go back to work

The court heard that one of the threatened shop workers had suffered so much after they incident they cried at the thought of having to go into work when the BCP Council area was not placed in Tier 4 Covid restrictions.

Their victim impact statement said: "I wanted a reason not to go into my place of work and I was actually happy when the country went into full lockdown. My confidence is completely gone."

Brooks, of West Overcliff Drive, Bournemouth, pleaded guilty to three counts of robbery, as well as three counts of possessing class A drugs – 200 ml of methadone, 0.1 gram of diamorphine and 0.1 gram of crack cocaine – in July 2020 and one charge of possession of a lock knife in August 2020.

Mitigating, Edward Elton said his client pleaded guilty at the earliest opportunity and highlighted that he has a long-term drug addiction.

“He’s a man who for 30 years has been driven by his addiction,” said Mr Elton.

He added: “He has lost the best part of his life to this addiction to class A drugs."

Mr Elton submitted that all robberies involve an element of harm for the victims and the victim statements were taken in the weeks after the offence and not updated ahead of the sentencing hearing.

Responding to this, Judge Stephen Climie said: "No one could suggest that is an event (the robbery) you are going to overcome in the space of a few weeks."

He added that acts like those committed by Brooks have potential to impact on victims "for the rest of their lives".

Shops were targeted by 'dangerous offender'

In sentencing the defendant, Judge Climie told him: “You found yourself at liberty in December last year and on three discrete occasions in December last year you made your way to smaller shops that are often described as convenience stores and threatened staff members.”

The judge said, in his opinion, “serious psychological harm” had been caused to each of the victims.

He said the offending was aggravated by his previous convictions, him being on bail when he committed the robberies and the “significant degree of planning and, or, targetting”.

The judge conluded that Brooks posed a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm occasioned by the committing of further specified offences by him in the future.

As a result, he handed the defendant a four-year extended licence period, which will run after the 10-year custodial term.