A VILLAGE has been left without its Post Office in the wake of a “professionally well planned” robbery earlier this year.

Armed robber David Hanley entered the premises wearing a balaclava underneath a helmet, carrying a bag in which he had a concealed gun, at 11.30am on Wednesday April 25.

Durham Crown Court heard Hanley produced the gun and told the postmistress: “Open the safe now, give me the money.

“Don’t press the alarm, or I’ll shoot you.”

He was given a tray containing £5,890 sterling, smaller quantities of Euros and Icelandic Krone, and some stamps, to a total value of £7,466, before leaving the premises about 90 seconds after entering.

Hanley pointed the gun at a neighbour, who had come to investigate what was going on, before leaving on a motorbike stolen earlier that morning in Langley Park.

Martin Towers, prosecuting, said he rode to a meeting point, abandoning the motorbike and leaving in a van driven by accomplice James Wright . The van’s front registration plate was removed.

Mr Towers said the pair hid the gun in a spare bedroom at the home of Wright’s mother, concealed the van in a metal container at a remote location and then spent the night celebrating their “success” on champagne and vodka at a Gateshead Hotel, before spending £872 at a sports discount store at the Metrocentre, paying entirely by cash, the following day.

But, Mr Towers said on learning the gun had been hidden at his mother’s home, Thomas Wright drove from his home in Cheshire to remove and dispose of the weapon, which has never been recovered by police.

Several days later when police spoke to Mrs Wright she gave a statement mentioning the gun.

When arrested both Wrights and Hanley made no comment.

But 28-year-old Hanley, of Hawes Crescent, Crook, went on to admit robbery, possession of an imitation firearm during the commission of crime and theft of the motorbike.

James Wright, 26, of Park Street, Willington, admitted the theft, robbery and perverting the course of justice by concealing the weapon, while Thomas Wright, 28, of Frodsham in Cheshire, admitted doing an act tending or intended to pervert the course of justice, by removing it.

Dan Cordey, for Hanley, said he is now “disgusted” at what he did and the effect it has had on the couple running the Post Office.

Graeme Cook, for James Wright, said he did not know Hanley had the gun until after the raid, when he attempted to conceal it.

Paul Currer, for Thomas Wright, said he acted to help protect his mother, who was at risk herself, had police found the gun at her property.

Jailing Hanley for 12 years, James Wright for nine years and one month, and Thomas Wright for 18 months, Judge Christopher Prince said: “This was a professionally well planned robbery of a post office and it wasn’t badly executed.

“It was organised, planned and determined and was almost successful.”