A man doing an early morning paper round was waylaid and robbed in his car by three heavy drug users, one carrying a hammer, a court heard.

The victim, a school assistant head teacher, was helping out with the round in Shildon, when the near two-hour ordeal befell him, on August 18.

Durham Crown Court was told he saw defendants Demi Foster and Ryan Patton with an unknown third man on a street corner as he was making a delivery, at about 4am.

As he went back to his car he was approached by them, with one asking if he had any “puff”.

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He told them he did not and said he was just doing his job, but he noticed one of them, who it emerged was Patton, had a hammer in his clothing.

Paul Cross, prosecuting, said the newspaper deliverer was told to drive around to a number of properties as his unwanted passengers looked for drugs.

He was forcibly made to go to an atm to withdraw £300 from his wife’s bank account.

As Foster took to the driving seat the victim's phone was taken from him and he was told to get into the boot of his own car.

Mr Cross said when the victim refused he was bundled into the back of the car, with one of the front seats pushed back against him so he was unable to move.

Foster then became more aggressive, accusing the man of, “taking the p**s”, kneeling on the front passenger seat to lean over and punch him.

Mr Cross said eventually he was given his car keys and phone back and, at about 5.50am, he drove to a store car park to ring the newsagent to explain what had taken place and to inform him that his assailants had thrown away his bundle of newspapers.

Police were informed and a finger print from Foster was found in the car, while Patton was recognised after examination of cctv in the vicinity.

The victim told police he was unable to get away for a long time and he was fearful of the unpredictable behaviour of the man with the hammer (Patton), who, like the others. appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

It has left him in a constant state of anxiety for which he has since received counselling.

When he was later arrested, as he was being taken to a police station, Patton said he had removed his handcuffs and when an officer went to check, the defendant spat in his face, claiming to have Hepatitis B.

Mr Cross said 30-year-old Foster, of The Green, Witton Park, and 21-year-old Patton, of Kilburn Street, Shildon, both admitted kidnap and robbery charges at the plea hearing at the court last month.

Foster also admitted driving without insurance and licence, while Patton also admitted assaulting an emergency worker.

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Tony Davis, for Foster, who said she indicated her guilty pleas “from the outset”, told the court: “She offers an apology for her feckless behaviour”.

He said her previous offending was indicative of a, “chaotic existence, driven by drug dependency, bringing her into conflict with criminal law.”

Referring to her latest crime, Mr Davis said: “This was an offence which was likely to be detected very quickly.”

But he added that while in custody in Low Newton Prison, Foster has become, “absolutely clear of drugs”, working with the drug and alcohol rehabilitation team and a mental health worker.

Nicholas Askins, for Patton, said while he largely gave “no reply” to police questions after the incident, he, at least, did confirm he did not have Hepatitis B to offer reassurance to the police officer and then indicated his guilt at an early stage in court proceedings.

“In the cold light of day he is thoroughly ashamed of his behaviour.

“He was under the influence at the time, but, while he has been in custody, he has been working hard with the drugs and alcohol team.”

Judge James Adkin said the trio’s intimidatory behaviour over an hour and fifty minutes caused the victim, “significant anxiety and serious psychological harm,” for which he has undergone counselling and received assistance from an occupational therapist.

Both defendants were given four-year prison sentences for the kidnap and robbery, but Patton also received a further three months for the assault on an emergency worker.

Foster was also banned from driving for 12 months upon her release at the mid-point in the sentence.

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