A KNIFE-wielding robber grabbed a hand full of cash from a shop's till after threatening the owner despite being a regular customer.

Paul Smith entered the shop on Brenda Road, Hartlepool, with his hood up and lower half of his faced covered before buying some sweets and making his audacious grab for the money.

CCTV showed the 33-year-old lunge over the counter towards the diminutive shop owner with a knife in his hand before running away for between £30 and £40.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 'desperate' drug addict targeted the shop just minutes after dropping his sister's children off at school.

Jenny Haigh, prosecuting, said the robbery had left the owner of J and J Todd terrified after being confronted by Smith as he paid for the sweets.

She said: "When the drawer was opened, he produced a knife from his, lunged over the counter with the knife in his hand with the blade pointing towards the woman.

"He used both hands to reach into the till, she grabbed his hands, there was a brief struggle but he did get away with some money – about £30 to £40."

Miss Haigh said the 4ft 10in shopkeeper is now on medication following the robbery.

Smith, of Windermere Road, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to robbery and possession of a bladed article.

His barrister, Stephen Constantine said Smith was 'ashamed' of his actions could believe that he had 'stooped so low'.

Judge Paul Watson QC, the Recorder of Middlesbrough, jailed Smith for four and a half years and a consecutive six months sentence for breaching a community order.

He said: " I have seen the CCTV of the incident and it was a particularly frightening incident which has left her extremely shaken, to the point that she is no longer working alone in the shop."