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Manchester Evening News
Manchester Evening News
Adam Everett & Kieran Isgin

Shop worker started sleepwalking after trauma of knifepoint robbery

A shop worker began sleepwalking after being held at knifepoint by a customer.

Gary Simpson's victim says her sleepwalking got so bad that she once woke up her daughter in the middle of the night and even made her breakfast while still fast asleep. It happened only hours after Simpson targeted another man in a brutal theft.

Liverpool Crown Court heard this week that the man had used an ATM at the Co-op on Orford Lane, Warrington, to withdraw £200 at around 10am on August 27. He said he "needed the money to have his dog put to sleep".

Read more: Man left his own uncle with a permanent facial scar after argument at family party

Peter Killen, prosecuting, described how Simpson followed the victim out of the shop and then forcibly took the cash out of his hand while walking past. The heartbroken pet owner had to return to withdraw more money and was forced to borrow money from his brother in order to pay the vet to put his dog to sleep, Liverpool Echo reports.

The victim remarked that he "didn't even see the man because it happened so quickly". In a statement read out to the court on his behalf, he spoke about how he had been "very close to the dog and had had it a long tim".

Now, he is "constantly looking over his shoulder" whenever he uses a cashpoint machine. But, that was the only incident caused by Simpson on that day.

At 6pm the following evening, his female victim was working on the till at a Heron Foods on the same road when Simpson appeared to be holding a packet of Popperts which he seemingly wanted to purchase. However, he instead shoved her over and brandished a knife with a curved blade of around five inches.

The 37-year-old told her to "move now" before emptying the register, which had around £50 cash inside. The victim said she was left "fearing for her life" and ran to find her manager at the rear end of the shop.

CCTV footage of the incident was shown in court while a statement read on behalf of the shop worker explained how she had begun sleepwalking after experiencing the event. She added that on one occasion she woke her daughter "in the middle of the night", and went downstairs to make her breakfast while asleep.

On other occasions, she would wake up to find items misplaced or cupboards left open. Simpson, of Station Road South, Padgate, has 32 prior convictions dating back to 2004, being jailed for 20 months for robbery in 2007 while being convicted for the same offence in 2011.

He has also faced jail time for being concerned in the supply of drugs. Phillip Tully, defending, said the incidents were "set against the background of drug misuse" and his client had garnered a lot of debts with dealers after his "addiction got out of control".

"He was unable to repay any debts, and Mr Simpson says he was threatened," Mr Tully added. "In late July, he actually rang the police to tell them he was under threat from a drug dealer.

"He accepts that these offences would have been highly unpleasant. He is a man who wants to change and put the offending behind him, and wants to use the time in prison to become drug-free.

"There is a different side to Mr Simpson. He is a man who had had a very difficult upbringing, which he is still trying to deal with.

"He accepts that what he did was wrong and that he deserves to be punished."

Simpson, who appeared via video link to HMP Liverpool on Thursday, admitted robbery, theft, and possession of a bladed article in a public place and was given a 56-month sentence. He must also pay a victim surcharge.

Judge Clement Goldstone KC said of the theft: "It was money he could ill afford to spend in any event. The loss of his money, in these circumstances, heightened his feelings of sadness.

"You weren't done for the day. You waited until a previous customer had left the area.

"You were seen to walk around the shop several times, waiting for your opportunity. The offences are aggravated by your previous convictions and the vulnerability of [the victim], who to your knowledge was working alone.

"That was no doubt a significant factor in your decision to rob the till at that time. I accept your remorse is genuine and you have some insight into your offending.

"I accept the background of drug dependency and your inability to pay debts led to you committing these offences. But I am afraid those who get into debt from buying or not paying for drugs cannot solve their financial difficulties by stealing from or robbing people, let alone at knifepoint.

"The threats and pressure you were under may explain your conduct, but it cannot and does not excuse it."

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