Robber threatened to stab female garage worker in terrifying evening raid

A petrol station employee says she has been left “a shell” of the worker she was after being threatened during a robbery.

Joel Thomas told the member of staff he would stab her if she did not hand over cash from the till.

The police were already hunting for Thomas after his concerned mother told them he had walked out of the house with a large kitchen knife.

A judge said it was clear from reports he had read that the defendant had mental health issues but that they had been caused by his abuse of drugs including spice.

Swansea Crown Court heard that at around 7.30pm on the evening of April 3 this year Thomas entered the Applegreen petrol station on Carmarthen Road in Fforestfach – formerly known as the Abertawe Service Station – and walked up to the till.

Dyfed Thomas, prosecuting, said the only member of staff on duty at the time was a lone female, a woman who had worked there for more than 15 years.

The court heard the defendant told the employee to give him the money from the till – but his manner was so calm, the woman initially thought he was joking and said “no”.

The prosecutor said Thomas, remaining calm, told the woman: “Give me the f***ing money now. This is a not a joke. I will f***ing stab you.”

With that the 34-year-old raider became agitated, and started banging on the display screen of the till, trying to open it. Thomas then told the woman she was “f***ing dead” and left the shop, turning to look at her through the window as he walked away.

The court heard the employee rang her manager and then the police.

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The defendant was arrested shortly before 9pm elsewhere in Fforestfach. Police had already been looking for Thomas after his mother had called them at around 6.45pm that evening to say he had been at her house asking for money for drugs, and was armed with a knife with an 11-inch blade. The court heard there was no evidence the defendant was in possession of the knife during the incident at the petrol station.

Thomas subsequently gave a “no comment” interview to officers.

In a victim impact statement which was read to the court by the prosecutor, the garage worker said she could never fully get the incident out of her head, and had been left feeling anxious, stressed, and with trouble sleeping. She said her confidence in work had been destroyed, and she was “on edge” when customers – especially lone male customers – came into the shop. She added she had always been a bubbly person who would chat to those using the garage but now “I feel a shell of the worker I was”.

Joel John Thomas, of Denver Road, Fforestfach, Swansea, had previously pleaded guilty to attempted robbery when he appeared in the dock via videolink for sentencing. He has 20 previous convictions for 40 offences including seven burglaries, possession of heroin with intent to supply, possession of a bladed article, and a robbery. This last conviction, from 2015, had seen him mugging a woman at a bus stop on Neath Road in Landore and snatching her bag. He was sentenced to 42 months in prison for that incident.

Andrew Evans, for Thomas, said the defendant had written an “eloquent” letter to the court which showed he had insight about his substance misuse and mental health issues. He said his client’s anxiety and depression had been exacerbated by the Covid lockdown, and he had begun mixing with his “former associates” again.

Judge Geraint Walters said it was clear from reports he had read on the defendant that he had mental health issues, but that those problems were caused by his addiction to drugs, including spice, which were causing him “untold harm mentally”.

He said Thomas was a dangerous offender in the meaning of the legislation but the length of sentence he could properly pass for the attempted robbery was not one which meant that he could impose an extended sentence. Giving the defendant a one-third discount for his guilty plea the judge sentenced him to three years and four months in prison. Thomas will serve up to half that period in custody before being released on licence to serve the remainder in the community.

WalesOnline – Swansea