A robber in England who had to be let out of the shop he was holding up after failing to negotiate the door has been jailed for three years.

28-year-old James Allan, of no fixed abode, was described by his own lawyer yesterday as “bumbling and incompetent” during the attack on Martin McColl newsagents, Northcourt Road, Abingdon, on March 2.

A balaclava-clad Allan, who made off with just £134.98 after threatening shop manager Angela Croke with an imitation gun and ordering her to empty the till, admitted robbing Ms Croke and possession of an imitation firearm.

Oxford Crown Court heard that after taking the money, Allan attempted to run out by pushing the door instead of pulling.

He removed his balaclava, exposing his face to CCTV cameras, then kicked a panel near the door, smashing it, knocking over a display and falling to the ground in the process.

Ms Croke had to open the door for him before he ran off – and he was found by police in the same road three hours later, throwing the weapon in a nearby bin and with the balaclava in his pocket.

Nikki Duncan, prosecuting, told the court: “When he was put in the back of the police car he immediately started to cry, told police he needed to pay the rent, and said: ‘I’m sorry, it’s not fair on them – are they alright?’.

The court heard Allan had no previous convictions but had developed a Class A drug addiction three years previously which had left him in debt to drug dealers who had suggested the robbery.

David Rhodes, defending, said: “This was a desperate act. He hit rock bottom, he was sleeping on sofas in crack houses. The drug dealers threatened him with something metal to his neck and suggested one way to pay it back would be to rob a shop and they gave him this imitation plastic toy gun.”

He described the botched robbery as “totally unsophisticated, it was bumbling and incompetent”.

Mr Rhodes said: “His actions after the robbery demonstrated Mr Allan is pathetic rather than callous.”

Allan had also stolen four cheques from his father, John Allan, two of which he made out to himself in cash, stealing £1,600.

He asked for the offence to be taken into account.

Sentencing Allan, Judge Gordon Risius said the defendant had expressed genuine remorse.

He said: “I accept you would not have acted as you did if you and your family had not been threatened with violence, but it makes no sense trying to get yourself out of trouble by doing something criminal yourself.”

He sentenced Allan to three years for the robbery and two years for possession of an imitation firearm, to run concurrently.

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