A 52-year-old man from Newmarket has been jailed following armed robberies at a bank and a travel agency in the town last year.
Joseph Walker, of St Marys Square, was sentenced to 11 years’ imprisonment at Ipswich Crown Court today, Thursday 25 February, after pleading guilty to two counts of robbery, one count of possessing an imitation firearm, and one count of having a bladed article in a public place.
Walker was arrested by police following a robbery at a travel agency in Newmarket on Tuesday 17 November. At around 1.40pm that afternoon, he entered the premises in The Guineas Shopping Centre brandishing a large knife and ordered staff to unlock a door allowing him to gain access to the foreign currency booth. He then entered the booth at which point a staff member locked him inside it and all staff were then able to safely leave the building.
Police were called and arrived at the scene within minutes. Officers entered the building and found Walker inside the foreign currency booth filling a bag with money. On seeing the officers, Walker held up an item covered by a plastic bag and told them he had a gun and that they should get back.
Believing him to be in possession of a firearm, the officers withdrew from the building and took up positions outside. A short while later Walker managed to escape from the booth and exited from the front of the premises, still holding his hand inside the plastic bag purporting to have a gun
At this point a Taser weapon was discharged by one of the officers, but Walker attempted to run away before being PAVA sprayed and then brought to the ground and arrested. Walker was found in possession of a six inch hunting knife, but did not have a gun. He was subsequently charged with robbery and possessing a bladed article in relation to this incident.
The second robbery Walker has been convicted of occurred at a bank in High Street, Newmarket, five days earlier on Thursday 12 November.
At around 2.50pm that afternoon, he entered the bank and approached one of the cashiers pointing a gun at them. The cashier was then handed a carrier bag and ordered to fill it with money. Walker then left the building via the rear exit, having stolen over £2,000.
Following his arrest for the incident at the travel agency, Walker was identified as a suspect for this crime and later charged with robbery and possessing an imitation firearm in relation to it.
Detective Chief Inspector Barry Byford, who oversaw the investigation into the robberies, said: “Joseph Walker caused considerable distress to staff and customers during the course of both these robberies and so I am extremely pleased to see him brought to justice.
“I would like to commend the bravery of all those who were threatened by Walker and in particular the quick actions of the staff at the travel agency for locking him in the foreign currency booth, thereby hindering his ability to make an easy getaway.
“The police officers first at the scene also displayed considerable courage in facing down a man they had good reason to believe was in possession of a gun, dealing with the situation calmly and finally managing to detain him, resolving the entire incident within the space of twenty minutes.
“I hope the sentence handed down to Joseph Walker acts as a deterrent to others who would attempt to intimidate members of the public in this way and rob people going about their work, that they face significant prison terms as a punishment for their actions.”