A MAN desperate to repay a drug debt resorted to committing an armed robbery at a convenience store just hours before the money was due, a court heard.

Wearing a makeshift disguise and carrying a knife, Richard Pope carried out the raid at a Premier store in Sedgefield, at 6.45pm on December 27, with the deadline for the repayment to a dealer looming hours later.

Durham Crown Court heard it was almost a “spur of the moment” offence, as Pope had to make the £200 payment by the end of that day.

Andrew Walker, prosecuting, said he entered hooded, with a scarf covering his face, approached the counter and demanded money from the till while brandishing the knife.

He grabbed cash and receipts from the till before leaving.

The shop worker, who feared being stabbed, contacted the owner, who reported it to police.

Pope was arrested at his home in the early hours the next morning and police recovered the clothing he wore during the raid plus several of the till receipts from the cash grab from his car parked on the drive way.

Mr Walker said at the time it was estimated that between £600 and £900 had been taken.

Pope made no reply in interview, but at magistrates’ court indicated a likely guilty plea.

Appearing at crown court, Pope, 40, of Tennyson Road, Chilton, admitted robbery and possessing a bladed article.

The court heard it put him in breach of a 12-week suspended prison sentence for motoring offences, imposed last August.

Mr Walker said the assistant feared he would be seriously injured or killed in the incident.

Stephen Hamill, mitigating said Pope only got involved in such a serious offence due to his cocaine addiction.

“He’s very articulate and intelligent and it’s tragic someone like him comes to answer for such offending. He’s almost ‘a poster boy’ for the effects misusing drugs can have.

“It was an offence committed in complete desperation with a deadline that day for £200 worth of cocaine he purchased.”

Mr Hamill said he managed to get £280 from the till to enable him to settle his debt, but then, “pretty much waited for the consequences to catch up with him.”

While in custody Pope has been helped to beat his addiction.

Imposing a four-year prison sentence, Judge James Adkin told Pope: “This was disguised, with an element of planning, targeting and threatening a lone shopkeeper, who was understandably affected by what you did, concerned he would be killed or injured.”