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Knifepoint robber jailed for holding up Ipswich convenience stores

PUBLISHED: 16:44 09 July 2019 | UPDATED: 17:59 09 July 2019

Luke Smart was jailed for five years for holding up two convenience stores at knifepoint and admitting a number of other offences, including street robberies and burglary  Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Luke Smart was jailed for five years for holding up two convenience stores at knifepoint and admitting a number of other offences, including street robberies and burglary Picture: SUFFOLK CONSTABULARY

Suffolk Constabulary

An armed robber has been jailed for five years for holding up two convenience stores at knifepoint in eight days.

Springs Convenience Store in Spring Road, Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATERSprings Convenience Store in Spring Road, Ipswich. Picture: PAUL GEATER

Luke Smart's attempt to rob Springs convenience store, in Spring Road, Ipswich, was thwarted by shopkeeper Saravanan Chithravel, who chased the 29-year-old away on two occasions, armed only with a beer can, on Sunday, February 17.

Smart then racked up £73.47 of fraudulent purchases on a debit card stolen from a staff locker at Aurora restaurant, in Helena Road, on the same afternoon.

Eight days later, armed with a knife, he burst into College Convenience Store, in Fore Street, darted behind the counter, where shopkeeper Biplob Saha was with his 13-year-old son, and made off with a till containing £350.

Smart admitted robbery, attempted robbery, two counts of knife possession, handling stolen goods and fraud at a hearing on June 4. He reappeared on remand at Ipswich Crown Court on Tuesday to ask for four other offences to be taken into account by sentencing judge Rupert Overbury, including two muggings and two burglaries on the same home in Grove Lane.

College Street Convenience was robbed at knifepoint Picture: ARCHANTCollege Street Convenience was robbed at knifepoint Picture: ARCHANT

CCTV footage and DNA led police to arrest Smart at Aurora restaurant, where he had obtained work as a chef soon after the debit card he fraudulently used was stolen from a member of staff.

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Smart, formerly of Oxford Road, told police he had been "off his head and needed a fix".

A statement from Mr Saha said he had been the victim of six crimes since taking over the shop in November 2015, including two robberies so far this year.

He said: "I'm now at a point where I'm losing hope and interest in the business.

"For quite a while after the robbery, I struggled to think about anything else.

"In short, I'm now wondering why I ever came to Ipswich and started a business. I don't earn enough to cope with the financial strain without having to deal with the emotional strain."

Lynne Shirley, mitigating, said various factors had led Smart to commit the offences, including a separation, a bereavement, and an unpaid debt incurred by relapsing into class A drug use.

She said Smart was genuinely remorseful and was clean of drugs since being on remand in prison.

Judge Overbury said he had "very little sympathy" for someone who embarked on such criminal conduct, causing his victims "distress and despair".

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