A WOMAN who regularly armed herself with a knife tried to rob a post office - after finding she had just 58p in her savings account.

Andrea Blakeburn was jailed for three-and-a-half years after producing a five inch blade at Geneva Road Post Office in Darlington and demanding £1,000.

The 50-year-old brandished the kitchen knife in front of terrified staff - who had already endured a previous armed robbery - and pointed the blade at a woman customer before fleeing when police had been called, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Paul Rooney, prosecuting, said Blakeburn, who has a history of alcohol abuse, had 11 previous convictions connected with carrying or producing knives while shoplifting in supermarkets and stores across the town.

In one incident she hid a knife in a sock and threatened staff after being caught shoplifting and pulled out a ten inch knife out when confronted in Matalan.

Mr Rooney said in another incident she tried to punch a shopworker several times after being challenged over the theft of a bottle of cider and again produced a knife.

He said Blakeburn, of Pateley Moor Crescent, Darlington, had tried to withdraw cash from Geneva Road Post Office on August 3, but discovered she only had 58p in her account.

Staff advised her to contact social services for help but she began shouting and making a scene before producing the knife.

In what was described as the “least sophisticated attempted robbery one can possibly imagine”, Blakeburn fled empty handed and dumped the knife in a post box outside.

She admitted attempted robbery and possession of a bladed article - which placed her in breach of her prison licence, having only been released in April this year.

Mr Rooney described how the post office had already been subject to an armed robbery when cash was stolen and there were fears that the business could become unviable if customers were put off.

Staff, who were left shaken by the incident, picked out Blakeburn in an identity parade as she was already known to them.

James Fenny, mitigating, said: “When she is not in drink she is quite a calm, approachable friendly person.

“This is the least sophisticated attempted robbery that one can possibly imagine.”

Judge Peter Armstrong said: “This post office has been the subject of a robbery before and premises like it that carry money must be protected by the courts.”

He praised a letter Blakeburn had written and said it had been a unsophisticated offence doomed to failure.

Judge Armstrong added that while she could be described as dangerous, he did not believe she had reached the level where an extended sentence was appropriate.

The three and-a-half year jail sentence included a 12 month concurrent sentence for the bladed article offence, while the knife itself will be forfeited and destroyed.