A DRUG addict who threatened a shop worker with a needle during an attempted robbery has been branded a threat to shop keepers.

Andrew Tobin targeted Premier Stores in Hartlepool in August when he demanded cash from the till while brandishing the needle before fleeing empty handed when the shop worker threatened to call the police.

The 38-year-old, who has 37 previous convictions for 130 offences, started stealing from shops in Hartlepool within weeks of being released from a six-month prison sentence, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Rachel Masters, prosecuting, said the defendant had pleaded guilty to attempted robbery, possession of a pointed article and five counts of shop theft – all taking place in little over a month from July 15 until August 19.

For the more serious matter, she told the court that Tobin first entered the shop on Cornwall Street at around 6.30am when the female shop assistant thought he was acting suspiciously. He left but returned ten-minutes later with his hood pulled up over his head and demanded cash from the till.

She said: “She noticed in his left hand he was holding a needle; he was holding it tightly and was moving it backwards and forwards towards her. She took that to be threatening.”

Miss Master said the defendant fled the shop when the woman said she had called the police and another member of the public came into the premises.

However, less than 30 minutes later he stole £76 worth of meat from the One Stop Shop on Catcote Road. He was identified on CCTV and later arrested.

His other shop lifting offences included stealing washing products from two shops in the town, stealing £33 worth of food from a Spar shop and £249 worth of body care products from the same One Stop Shop.

In mitigation, Ian Mullarkey, said his client had been a heroin addict for 20 years and had been in and out of prison for the last 15 years and said his latest offences were not very ‘sophisticated’.

He added: “In regard to the attempted robbery he was gutted at what he did – he is ashamed of it and would like to apologise for it. He was desperate to get some support.”

Judge Stephen Ashurst jailed Tobin for two years for the attempted robbery with a consecutive six months sentence for the five shop thefts and a 12-month concurrent sentence for possession of a pointed article.

He said: “Two and a half years is both proportionate and appropriate sentence for these offences – you have been a threat to shop keepers for a number of years.”