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East Anglian Daily Times
Saturday, January 31, 2009 | 07:00
A HEROIN addict desperate for money paced outside a Suffolk bank wearing a balaclava before going inside to rob it.
He told police he felt under pressure to buy Christmas presents for his step-children.
Robert Ponsford threatened staff at Barclays Bank in Mildenhall by telling them he had a gun in his pocket.
The bank staff handed over £1,440 and were left “shocked and distressed” by the apparent armed robbery Ipswich Crown Court heard.
Patricia Doggett, prosecuting, said as Ponsford left the bank he threatened a customer by saying to him “don’t try anything”.
However, the customer proceeded to follow Ponsford along the high street and market place before scaling a fence the defendant had climbed. He then flagged down a police car and told them of the robbery.
Ponsford, 33, of North Terrace, Bury St Edmunds, was arrested shortly afterwards. He told police he had thrown the money into a skip but never had a gun.
Mrs Doggett said that on December 11 staff saw Ponsford walking past the bank wearing a balaclava. He then held the bank door open with a rock, went inside and demanded money from three cashiers.
He was told there were only £20 notes in the tills and no £50s. Although he threatened each of them saying: “I want the money out of the till and I have a gun”.
The court heard that bank staff felt shaken, upset and fearful after the robbery.
Ponsford pleaded guilty to robbery.
He told police he wanted his step-children to have a good Christmas and also wanted to rid himself of his drug addiction so had taken a large amount of antidepressants to help him.
Andrew Thomson, mitigating, said his client was “Not himself that day. He was almost deranged. He had tipped over the Christmas tree at home and tipped over a bed,” he added.
He said Ponsford, who had always worked despite his addiction, had bought balaclavas for himself and his step-son a week earlier and had taken one of them and the rock to the bank on the day in question.
Judge Peter Thompson sentenced the former HGV driver and mechanic to two and a half years in prison.
He said: “You pretended to have a gun and the bank staff believed you. They were in fear.”
The stolen money was never recovered. The customer who followed Ponsford was described as “brave” and awarded £400 by the court.