A ROBBER who threatened a cashier with a large stick before throwing a bottle of wine at an off-duty policeman’s head, has been jailed.

Christopher Williams walked into the Maddison Mendip Spar store, in Chester-le-Street, with a large tree branch on New Year’s Eve last year and demanded the cashier open the till.

The woman was so petrified she was unable to open it and another member of staff had to help.

Sitting at Durham Crown Court on Friday, Recorder Simon Eckersley, heard how Williams, 37, then rifled through the till before an off-duty policeman responded to calls for help.

The policeman challenged the robber, but was chased out of the store by Williams who then threw a bottle of wine at him, narrowly missing his head.

The court was shown CCTV footage of the incident.

John Harley, prosecuting, read out a statement from the cashier, who said she was “petrified” of Williams and overwhelmed by fear.

The victim said she suffers from bad dreams following the incident and said it was difficult to return to work.

Mr Harley said Williams, of Hambledon Avenue, Chester-le-Street, pleaded guilty to robbery, possessing an offensive weapon and common assault, at a pre-trial hearing and had 36 convictions for 97 offences.

The prosecutor noted a previous conviction in 2014, when Williams was given a four-year sentence after robbing a Sainsbury’s store in which he pressed a blade against a cashier’s throat.

Another offence, in 2000, saw him sentenced for actual bodily harm when he bit off part of someone’s nostril.

Laurie Scott, mitigating, said a psychiatric report revealed William’s “incredibly difficult background” with him being taken into care aged seven and spending most of his adult life in and out of prison.

She said Williams has problems with illicit substances and had seen his GP before the offence.

Professionals have since said they think Williams is suffering from symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder.

Ms Scott said Williams had planned the robbery and left his face uncovered in the hope he would be sought out and give him the “courage” to end his own life.

She said he was found by police on train tracks and taken to hospital.

Judge Eckersley sentenced Williams to four-and-a-half years in prison.