Masked armed robber foiled as he targeted Stockton shop

A would-be armed robber was identified by his two distinctive tattoos after he demanded cash from a shop owner while pointing a knife at him.

A masked Dean Ashworth walked into the A&A Johnson shop carrying a seven-inch kitchen knife before demanding that the owner filled a bag with cash.

The 47-year-old fled the scene emptied handed when the owner managed to trigger the emergency alarm, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said Ashworth’s distinctive tattoos, including one of a cartoon laughing joker on his hand and another of his son’s name on his arm, led to police being able to identify the suspect following an anonymous tip-off.

The aborted raid left the shop owner fearing for his life and resulted in him putting the shop up for sale after more than 40 years in the business.

In a victim impact statement, he said: “Since the incident I struggled to sleep and that affects me every day. I remember it so vividly, like it was yesterday.

“I have terrible nightmares. I feel like I’m waiting for it to happen again.”

Mr Baker said the mental impact on the victim had left him feeling permanently anxious and unwilling to continue working in the shop and unable to support his family.

The court heard how Ashworth had been living in supported accommodation in Darlington at the time of the attempted robbery before going missing.

He was eventually arrested while living in the Sheffield area, the court heard.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Dean AshworthDean Ashworth (Image: Cleveland Police)

Ashworth, of Durham Street, Stockton, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery and possession of a bladed article following the incident on October 8, 2020, at around 8pm.

Simon Walker, mitigating, said his client had only recently revealed that he had suffered childhood trauma which resulted in his longstanding alcohol and drug problems.

Judge Timothy Stead told the defendant his actions had ruined the victim’s livelihood as he sentenced Ashworth to four years and eight months in prison.

He said: “You went into the store, you produced a kitchen knife and you were masked at the time. You held it out and threatened the man who was about two feet away and then demanded he fill the bag with money.

“It was an attempt to rob him with a knife. You didn’t get away with anything which is why it is only a charge of attempted robbery.”

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