A man who robbed a Lanark shop at knifepoint was brought down in the Castlegate by local people who gave chase when the shopkeeper raised the alarm.
The passsers-by who took action were described as “brave Lanarkians” by Sheriff Nikola Stewart last Wednesday when Stephen Heaney admitted assault and robbery.
Heaney (36) of 9 Kildare Drive, Lanark, admitted assaulting Imtaz Ali in Bits N PCs in the High Street on October 16, repeatedly demanding money, threatening to kill him, and robbing him of £365, the takings in the till.
Depute fiscal Sandra Craig told the sheriff court that Mr Ali was closing for the day when Heaney knocked at the door, and he unlocked the door.
Heaney then following him into the back of the shop and produced a large, black-handled kitchen knife – the court heard the blade was 8-10 inches long – and demanded money.
Mr Ali opened the till drawer, with Heaney repeatedly shouting “give me the money”, and handed the cash over.
After Heaney left Mr Ali went outside shouting “I have been robbed” and pointing to Heaney, who was making off.
“Some passers-by then ran after the accused and found him standing outside the Wee Man’s public house in the Castlegate,” said Ms Craig.
“They apprehended him, grabbed him by a bear hug, and at that point an off-duty police officer assisted in restraining the accused.”
Heaney still had the knife.
And Ms Craig added: “When he was apprehended, he said to the person who bear-hugged him and brought him to the ground: ‘I don’t know what you are talking about’, then he started laughing, and saying ‘I could have got away there’.”
Ms Craig added that there was no suggestion that Heaney was under the influence of drink or drugs, and a lawyer was unable to offer any reason for the crime other than that Heaney “was at a low point in his life”.
There were no addiction problems, he had not needed cash to buy drugs and he had not been desperate for money. It had had nothing to do with the race of the shopkeeper and he had not even known the man.
Heaney’s previous convictions were almost entirely for road traffice matters.
“This man has never committed anything like this before,” said the lawyer. “He described it as a cry for help.”
He said that Heaney had been in a depressed and anxious state at the time.
Sheriff Stewart stressed the seriousness of the charge.
“How often does that happen in Lanark?” she asked, pointing out that Heaney had gone to the shop with a knife.
The lawyer countered that Heaney had not been masked and had made no plans for any getaway. “I can’t shed any light on it,” he said.
And when the sheriff added: “I have a picture of a lot of brave Lanarkians, coming en masse to stop him,” the solicitor replied: “And fair play to them” for intervening when there was a weapon involved.
Sentence was deferred for a full range of reports.