A SHOP thief turned robber when challenged by an assistant as he tried to steal two bottles of whiskey from a convenience store.

Brett Northey entered Spar, in Mendip Avenue, Chester-le-Street, wearing a woollen face covering and mask, at 7.50pm on May 29.

Durham Crown Court was told the assistant twice asked him to leave as he was barred from the premises.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said he complied, but re-entered ten minutes later and was again asked to leave.

He left both times, but returned again with his girlfriend and walked to the alcohol shelves, picking up two bottles of vodka.

The assistant took them from him and placed them back on the shelves, but as she did, Northey grabbed two bottles of Jack Daniels.

Mr Baker said the assistant again took them from him, but while placing those back on the shelf, Northey pushed her, causing her to fall into the display.

He then grabbed another bottle of Jack Daniels and ran from the store.

Mr Baker said although not injured, the shaken assistant tried to run after Northey, but lost sight of him.

When he was arrested days later Northey denied it was him on the store cctv.

But, last month, Northey, 29, of Percy Terrace, New Kyo, near Stanley, admitted robbery, five counts of shop theft, plus possession of heroin and a knife, upon arrest, on June 4.

They put him in breach of a community order imposed for further shoplifting, earlier this year.

Judge James Adkin told defence counsel Tony Davis that he had read an impressive probation report on Northey, who has had a taste of custody recently.

“It outlined difficulties he has had, not least the relationship he was in, which dragged him down from the progress he was making.

”I would be just persuaded to make a suspended sentence with any breaches reserved for myself.”

He imposed a nine-month sentence, suspended for two years, during which Northey must undergo 20 rehabilitation activity days, a six-month drug rehabilitation requirement and attend 30 thinking skills sessions.

A two-year restraining order prohibits Northey from entering the Spar store.

Judge Adkin told Northey to seek the assistance of the Changing Lives charity on his release, as well as, “concentrating on steering clear of drugs and avoiding toxic relationships.”