A MAN has been jailed after he admitted carrying out a terrifying armed robbery at a family run store in Flint.

Stephen Austin Atkins, 22, of New Roskell Square, was caught on “nearly every CCTV camera” in the Flintshire town, including having changed into a green Hugo Boss tracksuit after he left his home carrying a Sports Direct bag on April 3 last year.

Atkins entered the store at around 1.45pm brandishing the imitation firearm, which he pointed between the eyes of the petrified female shop assistant, who was working alone in the premises at the time.

As she pleaded with Atkins not to kill her, she handed him money from both the till and the safe and as he fled the scene with around £1,200 in cash he told her quite chillingly, “if you call anyone, I will kill you”.

Atkins was arrested four days later after a police officer with no connection to the case was able to identify him after seeing a still image of the CCTV that had been circulated by North Wales Police.

David Maidstone, prosecuting at Mold Crown Court, said North Wales Police had produced a brilliant piece of evidence, which detailed Atkins every move that day, including CCTV images of him returning back home later that afternoon, having changed back into the original clothes he was wearing when he left.

CCTV image of Atkins wearing a Hugo Boss tracksuit was circulated by the police in the hunt for the robber, that eventually led to his arrest.

The CCTV also captured something that led to another male being interviewed by police. Images had shown the two men meeting up earlier and both were seen walking in the direction of the store, before the male went inside.

CCTV from inside the shop identified the male, thought to have been a customer, standing inside the shop as Atkins entered, wearing a black balaclava. Atkins told him to get on the floor before he went up to the counter and made his demands.

Mr Maidstone said the male, who was interviewed by police and provided them with Atkins’ name, was never charged in relation to the robbery and although it is not known if he knew what was about to take place, he hadn’t played any obvious role.

It was only when entering a plea at his first court appearance, did Atkins finally admit it had been him who carried out the robbery.

In a victim personal statement, the shop assistant said how for a long time after the incident, she didn’t want to leave the house alone and would always ask for the company of her mother if going for a walk.

She had been so upset and nervous about what had happened she could no longer work alone ever again.

She had developed a fear of people wearing tracksuits and for months afterwards, feared Atkins would find out where she lived and come back and harm her. However, she said she was determined not to let the robbery completely ruin her life and wants to get on with living her’s as much as she could.

Her step-father, who owned the business, also provided a statement to the court, saying how it took just “one minute” for someone to walk in and ruin all the good work he had put into the shop since it opened in 1999.

The business never reopened after the robbery because the owner said there was no way he could ask either of his two step-daughters, who both worked for him, to ever work alone in the shop again.

Oliver King, defending, said his client was entitled to credit after pleading guilty during his first court appearance and it was encouraging how he had continued to attend appointments with the probation service.

He was full of genuine remorse, particularly due to the upset he had caused the shop assistant.

Mr King said how Atkins had had a very difficult childhood and because he suffered physical abuse at the hands of his father, who forbade his son to go to school, was taken into care at the age of 14.

The robbery had been carried out due to the fact Atkins owed £800 to a man over damage that had been caused to a car the defendant had taken without the owner’s consent; a charge Atkins was actually convicted of at Mold Magistrates Court in April of last year.

Atkins had text messages on his phone from the man, who Mr King said was the same man who was in the store when the robbery was committed, including threatening to “smash his face in if he didn’t get his money back”.

Judge Niclas Parry told Atkins: “This was a terrifying robbery.

“Your actions left the young woman in the shop believing she was going to die. It had been planned and you were disguised in a black balaclava.

“This terrifying one minute incident has resulted in a well established, family run store that was very well respected in the community, having to close because the owner could not ask anyone to work in there alone ever again.”

Judge Parry accepted Atkins had shown genuine remorse and had no previous convictions remotely similar to this one.