A 24-year-old man robbed a shop at knifepoint because he had no money for his birthday, a Derry court has been told.

Jason Cooke committed the robbery at the Spar Shop in Coolessan Walk in Limavady just before closing time on August 22, 2015, where the defendantheld a shop assistant at knifepoint before stealing £100 from the till.

The court was told the robbery took place just three days before Cooke’s birthday and he told the police he'd robbed the shop because he'd no money for his birthday.

A barrister for the Public Prosecution Service said that only the shop supervisor and a female assistant were in the shop when Cooke, with his hoodie up and with a scarf over his chin, came into the premises.

The court heard Cooke was carrying a knife and he walked over to the till before tapping the knife on the counter.

He waved a knife in the face of the supervisor and shouted at him to put money from the till into a plastic bag.

Five money bags, each containing £20, were placed into the plastic bag and Cooke walked out of the shop.

The court heard the supervisor reported the matter to the police and several minutes later officers arrived at the shop.

The supervisor said he knew Cooke and had served him earlier in the day in the shop.

The shop assistant said she also knew Cooke as she had gone to school with him and he was a regular customer.

Cooke was arrested twenty minutes later at a property in nearby Gorteen Crescent.

He was wearing clothes similar to those worn by the robber and the police also found knife and money bags.

He was shown CCTV footage of the theft, but denied the person on the footage was him.

Cooke, who had 41 previous convictions, eventually admitted his guilt after he was been picked out of an identification line-up by the shop supervisor.

He told the police during his admissions that he wanted the money for his birthday.

Judge Philip Babington said at the time of the theft Cooke was homeless due to the fact he had been put out of his family home by his parents because of his constant substance abuse.

He said the crime was an escalation in Cooke's offending and that the defendant assessed as presenting a high risk of re-offending.

“Robbery is a very serious offence, particularly robberies involving small convenience stores of which there are many in this jurisdiction,” the judge said.

“The public rely on them and their staff deserve to be protected. It is quite clear this man was mixing with the wrong crowd.”

Cooke will serve half of three and half year sentence in custody and half on licence.

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