A ROBBER wrapped a jumper round his head in a bungled attempt to disguise himself as he struck at a village store, less than two hours after stealing from the same premises, a court was told.

Michael Thirling was wearing, otherwise, the same clothing as he had on his earlier visit to Su’s Store, in Trimdon Grange, on the afternoon of July 27.

Durham Crown Court was told on the earlier visit, with an accomplice, he only had sufficient cash to pay for two cans from a four-pack of Stella Artois lager.

Shaun Dryden, prosecuting, said unknown to the lone assistant at that time, Thirling also took the other two cans, concealing them in his jumper, before passing them to his companion.

On his return, later in the afternoon,Thirling had the jumper wrapped round his head, but the assistant, who knew him as ’Michael’, recognised his face through the gap.

He brought forward a bag of 59p crisps and offered the assistant a £1 coin, requiring her to open the till to given him change.

But Thirling then lunged forward, thrusting a hand into the open till drawer and helped himself to some money.

He ran from the premises, in Redesdale Court, with between £60 and £100 from the till, and the shaken assistant screamed in fear, before running to alert a neighbouring shop-keeper.

Mr Dryden said, based on the information provided by the assistant, Thirling was arrested the following day, making no comment to police questions.

But, the 27-year-old, of Station Road West, Trimdon Station, admitted theft and robbery at the plea hearing, on July 31.

The court heard he has 23 previous convictions for 58 offences, many for shoplifting, and at the time of the robbery was subject of two conditional discharges.

Lewis Kerr, mitigating, told the sentencing hearing: “For some time he’s been a hopeless alcoholic and he committed these offences to get more alcohol.

“It was plainly a foolish and desperate offence, for which he’s shocked and ashamed. But, while in custody, he’s been in abstinence, and, alcohol-free, he’s a pleasant man.”

Mr Kerr urged Judge Jonathan Carroll to give Thirling a chance to further overcome his alcohol addiction in the community, by passing a suspended sentence.

But, jailing him for 28 months, the judge said for such crimes, putting a vulnerable woman offering a public service in such fear, it had to be an immediate custodial sentence.