Leeds shopkeeper’s robbery ordeal hell

PIC: James Hardisty
PIC: James Hardisty
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An elderly shopkeeper who was terrorised by a hammer-wielding robber believes economic problems have fuelled violent crime.

Thakor Patel, 74, and his wife Dhaniben, 73, were powerless to fight back when regular customer Jonathan Kear raided their corner shop, Neils Store, in Kirkstall, Leeds.

Kear, who stole cigarettes and bottles of spirits, was caught after he returned to the store three days later to buy sweets for a group of children.

He was jailed for six years after being found guilty of robbery by a Leeds Crown Court jury.

Mr Patel said his family had been left “extremely frightened” by the incident, adding: “We have had the shop for more than 40 years and this is the first time anything like this ever happened.

“So many people are jobless and it’s happening so many times at so many shops. I’ve lost about 50 per cent of my customers and it’s very hard for people. I think they are more desperate.”

Kear, who had been into the shop on previous occasions, walked into Neils, on Abbey Road, with an accomplice shortly before closing time on the night of October 28 last year.

Mr and Mrs Patel and their daughter-in-law Vilas, 50, were watching television in the flat at the back of the store when they were confronted by him wielding a claw hammer.

Mr Patel said: “He shouted ‘Don’t come down or I’ll hit you’.

“I tried to get in the way of my wife and daughter-in-law and he swung the hammer at me, trying to hit me. It was extremely frightening.

“My wife couldn’t sleep for a long time afterwards.”

The robbers escaped with hundreds of pounds worth of cigarettes and alcohol.

But Kear returned on Halloween with a group of children and was arrested after police were alerted by a panic alarm that officers installed after the robbery.

“I don’t think he’s very clever,” Mr Patel said.

Kear, 38, was found guilty and jailed after a two-day trial.

Investigating Officer PC Mark Lynam paid tribute to the Patels. He said: “This was a targeted attack on a local store which the suspect frequently visited. The victims of this crime are elderly upstanding members of the community who have run their shop since 1971 without being subjected to crime.

“Mr Patel and his family have been excellent witnesses and were crucial in facilitating a prosecution in this case.”

The teenagers involved in the incident left the train at Ben Rhydding station. Picture: Google

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