A mother-of-two who was held at knifepoint during an armed robbery has won a case for constructive dismissal against her employers.

Sharon Watson was assistant manager of the Spar shop and sub-post office, in Haughton, Darlington when the premises was raided by armed robber Gary Pattison in July last year.

Miss Watson, of the Red Hall estate, Darlington, who had worked at the shop for five years, was left severely traumatised by the incident.

She decided to take her employer, Peter Cooper, owner of the Haughton store, to an industrial tribunal after he failed to improve security at the shop following the attack.

Miss Watson had repeatedly asked her employers to install a security gate at the end of the shop counter and also told them she did not want to work alone in the store.

The employment tribunal, sitting at Newcastle, found that Mr Cooper pressurised Miss Watson to return to work despite her having a medical certificate which justified her absence until November.

Miss Watson said last night: "I am delighted that I have won but it is a shame that I had to go to a tribunal. "Mr Cooper believed that he had not done anything wrong. I just wanted him to admit liability."

On one occasion, only ten days after the assault, Mr Cooper visited the assistant manager and said he wanted her to go back to work. He told her the experience was 'like falling off a bike, you have got to get back on.'

In a written judgement, the tribunal found: 'They were aware that the applicant was having extreme difficulty in coping with any return to work, but they still attempted to persuade her to do so thereafter.'

Three months later the Spar shop still had not addressed her concerns. Miss Watson was forced to resign and to take her employer to court for failing to provide a safe, working environment.

The tribunal heard that it was only after she had left work that the Spar installed the security gate she had requested.

Spar Ltd and Peter Cooper declined to comment.