A WOULD-BE store robber fled empty-handed when confronted by the joint owner, who flung a pile of newspapers in his direction.

Liam Aaron Dann, 19, entered the Late Shopper in Evenwood, near Bishop Auckland, carrying what was described as a large knife or meat cleaver, at about 7.45pm on December 16 last year.

Durham Crown Court heard that the couple who run the village store, Michael Barnes and Wendy Swords, were both present as Dann approached the counter shouting: “Give us all your money”, while holding the knife above his head.

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Sam Faulks, prosecuting, said the hooded raider slammed the knife down onto the wooden counter, causing damage.

Although Ms Swords was only on the other side of the counter, Mr Barnes was counting newspaper returns nearby and shouted at Dann, before thrusting a pile of papers in his direction.

Dann turned and fled, leaving Ms Swords “terrified” at what might have taken place had her partner not been present.

The court was told it has had a serious effect on the couple, who have installed cctv and replaced the work-top counter, while they now always ensure both are present in the store at all opening times.

Mr Faulks said, previously, one or the other was free to do other things, including helping to care for an elderly infirm relative.

Dann, of Princes Street, Bishop Auckland, who was on court bail awaiting sentence for several burglaries, was found to be in breach of an electronically-monitored 7pm to 7am home curfew that night.

He admitted attempted robbery at an earlier hearing, but the court heard that he has been serving a custodial sentence for the burglaries and is not due for release until December.

Shaun Dryden, mitigating, told the court: “He’s still young, and only turns 20 on Thursday (August 28), but he pleaded ‘guilty’ at the first opportunity, even though there was only circumstantial evidence indicating he was involved, as he couldn’t be identified on any cctv.”

Mr Dryden said Dann graduated from minor motoring offences to more serious matters due to mounting debts to drug dealers, and he was told to attempt the robbery, as well as being armed and taken to the scene, as he was warned there may be “consequences” to his mother’s property.

Imposing a sentence of two years and eight months in a young offenders’ institution, Judge Penny Moreland said Dann’s crime has brought “expensive repercussions” for the shop owners, “who provide a service for local people”.

Judge Moreland said the sentence will only start running when Dann completes his custodial term for the burglaries, in December.