A MAN who led a robbery at a convenience store on the evening of New Year’s Day was jailed for almost five-and-a-half years.

Kenneth McGregor and a 16-year-old male accomplice took part in the raid, robbing a female assistant of money at McColl’s, in Evenwood, south-west Durham, shortly before 9.30pm on January 1.

But only a few hours later both were arrested following a police chase which resulted in a Fiat Punto car, taken without the owner’s authority, colliding with a Peugeot Station Wagon, on the A690, at Stonebridge on the outskirts of Durham.

McGregor, of Hambleton Road, Coundon, and his teenage co-accused admitted robbery at a recent hearing at Durham Crown Court.

The 30-year-old defendant also admitted aggravated taking of the Punto, driving while disqualified, and damaging a cell at Durham City Police Station, following his arrest, early on January 2.

His accomplice also admitted being carried in an aggravatedly-taken vehicle.

A third defendant, 25-year-old Shelby Cliff, of Oakley Green, West Auckland, initially denied handling money stolen in the robbery.

But she subsequently admitted possessing criminal property, several hundred pounds, said to represent part of the proceeds of the earlier robbery.

She also admitted having a bladed weapon in public, a knife, found in her bag, along with the money, following the collision in Coupland Way, Stonebridge, on January 2.

Her barrister, Dan Cordey, said her admission was made on the basis that she was in the Punto at the time of the accident, and in getting out of the damaged vehicle she was asked to grab the money.

Mr Cordey added that in doing so, she was unaware from where the money originated.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said those pleas were acceptable to the Crown enabling the case to proceed to sentence.

Following preparation of background reports on the trio, by probation and the Youth Offending Service, Judge Jonathan Carroll sentenced all three at Teesside Crown Court.

McGregor was given a prison sentence totalling five years and five months, plus four weeks and was made subject of a 15-year restraining order not to approach the store or contact the two female assistants present at the time of the robbery.

Cliff was given a four-month prison sentence, suspended for a year, with a three-month 8pm to 8am home curfew.

The 16-year-old was made subject of a three-year youth rehabilitation order, with a 90-day extended activity requirement, and a three-month 8pm to 6am home curfew.

Both Cliff and the teenager were also made subject of the same 15-year restraining order as McGregor.