Two men have received prison sentences totalling 13 years for a terrifying armed robbery which they aborted at a village newsagent and general dealers store.

In a case dating back almost three-and-a-half years, Christopher Nixon and Craig Dixon have finally been sentenced for an early morning masked and armed raid at Moscis Convenience Store, in Horden.

Durham Crown Court was told the female owner of the Sunderland Road premises noticed two figures outside with hoods up shortly after opening at 7am on August 7, 2020.

Richard Herrmann, prosecuting, said she felt so unsettled that she rang her husband, but at 7.10am, before he managed to get there, the pair entered wearing face masks, Nixon carrying a claw hammer and Dixon with a knife.

The Northern Echo: Christopher Nixon, inset, top right, and Craig Dixon, jailed for sentences totsling 13 years for

They moved about both at the front and back of the counter area, making repeated demands for money.

Dixon pointed the knife at the till, but the owner explained she had only just opened the shop for the day and so there were not yet any takings.

Mr Herrmann said Nixon then used the claw hammer to cause substantial damage to the counter area and screen as well as the till.

But the would-be robbers then fled, empty-handed, getting into a car parked around the corner and driving away.

A customer, who was about to enter the shop, made a note of the registration number on the vehicle.

Police were alerted and it was discovered the vehicle was registered in the name of Nixon.

It was located 20 minutes later outside Dixon’s home in nearby Blackhall Colliery.

Nixon, who was still in possession of the claw hammer, was located in a nearby backyard and he tried to conceal the weapon at a neighbouring property.

The knife and clothing worn by both men during the robbery bid was found inside Dixon’s home.

Both were arrested and made no comment to police, but they were linked to the scene after cctv in the area of the targeted store was viewed, linking them to the vehicle and wearing matching-type clothing to the raiders, one of whom could be seen carrying a claw hammer.

Mr Herrmann said, “of significance” the footage captured the car tactically parked around the corner and to the side of the shop, with both defendants leaving the vehicle with their hoods up, covering their heads and faces as they approached the front of the premises.

They could then be seen hanging back at the entrance while a bread delivery truck and a white van left and two customers came out of the store.

Mr Herrmann said in-store cameras showed the close proximity of both weapons to the shop owner, before the pair could be seen leaving empty-handed.

The Northern Echo:

In her impact statement the victim, who has run the premsies for 25 years, said it was the fifth time it had been attacked and the second time she had been threatened with a knife by someone demanding money.

She said as the attack came during the Covid pandemic period people were wearing face coverings anyway and so she was “on edge” every time someone came into the store who she did not recognise.

Mr Herrmann said the victim did not think the perpetrators realised the impact such incidents have on the victims.

She said that for the first time in 25 years of running the business she was thinking it was, “the final straw”.

As a result of the incident she invested in a necklace-type panic alarm which were linked to the shop alarms.

She added that it was comforting that a former employee, living nearby, would attend each morning when she opened the premises and remain there for about an hour to offer reassurance.

The court heard that Dixon, 38, of Seventh Street, and 41-year-old Nixon, of Burns Avenue, both Blackhall Colliery, only appeared at crown court for the first time in connection with the incident more than two years later, in October 2022.

Both only offered guilty pleas to attempted robbery at separate hearings last year, Dixon, in March, and Nixon the day before his scheduled trial, in December.

Both, particularly Dixon, were said to have lengthy records, featuring many theft and other dishonesty offences.

Mark Styles for Dixon, said it is ten months since he pleaded guilty and he has made good use of his time on remand in custody, and believes it is time for a change, as he plans to go into private rehabilitation to overcome drug misuse on his release from prison.

Martin Scarborough, for Nixon, said he has been a long-standing drug addict, but he has made, “good progress” on a methadone programme over the last 12 months, during which he has held down work, with his employer speaking “highly of him”.

Recorder Tom Moran said it was not “entirely clear” why an offence committed in August 2020, for which they were arrested a short time later that day, was only now reaching the sentencing stage.

He said the delay could not be a mitigating factor for either defendant, as both have committed further offences since the attempted robbery.

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Recorder Moran said there appears to have been “significant planning” to what in context was a “prolonged” incident, with “persistent” use of threats of violence, causing undoubted psychological harm to the shop owner.

He said both would have received prison sentences totalling 90 months (seven-and-a-half years) had they taken it to trial.

Due to the differing times each did plead guilty he imposed a sentence of six years and eight months on Nixon and six years and four months on Dixon.