Police have praised the courage of a have-a-go-hero shop worker who tackled a gun-wielding robber during a series of offences in Leeds.
Marlon Stewart aged 37, committed 13 crimes in the space of about 20 minutes on the evening of July 19 last year.
After buying a bottle of vodka at a corner shop near Chapel Allerton Park, he went to the park and confronted three 19-year-old males and robbed two of them of their mobile phones after showing them a handgun in his waistband.
At 8.06pm, Stewart, with his face masked and carrying the vodka bottle, entered the Premier shop, in Lidgett Lane, and threatened the member of staff at the counter with what appeared to be a handgun.
While he was forcing the victim to open the till, a woman customer entered the shop and Stewart approached her and threatened her to hand over the keys to her car.
The staff member managed to escape from the shop while Stewart was distracted.
He stole cash from the till and left the scene in the woman’s white Audi A1.
Minutes later, Stewart struck at the One Stop store, in nearby Chandos Gardens.
Again, with his face masked and pointing the pistol, he terrified the woman member of staff behind the counter.
While he was angrily making demands for money, staff member Niall Stranix, who had been mopping the floor, had seen enough and decided to intervene.
Despite the masked offender being armed with a handgun, Mr Stranix pounced on him and grabbed him in a headlock.
Stewart lashed out with a bottle striking the 61-year-old on the head causing two cuts.
But Mr Stranix held onto him during an intense struggle despite knowing the robber was still holding the gun.
The pistol had started to break apart as the two fought and was later believed to have been a plastic BB gun.
During the struggle, Stewart’s face was revealed to the shop’s CCTV cameras, which led to officers identifying him as the suspect.
He was forced to flee the scene empty-handed with Mr Stranix still in pursuit.
The stolen Audi was reported by members of the public being driven dangerously in Roundhay Road a short time later, colliding with a barrier, swerving in and out of traffic and running red lights.
The two men who had been robbed in Chapel Allerton Park contacted police to report the incident shortly before 9pm and it was then linked to the other offences.
Detectives from Leeds District CID launched an investigation and Stewart was quickly identified as the suspect.
Protacted enquiries to locate him resulted in his arrest on September 29.
He was subsequently charged with four counts of robbery, one of attempted robbery; five counts of possession of a firearm while committing a robbery, assault occasioning actual bodily harm, driving while disqualified and driving without insurance in relation to the evening’s incidents.
Stewart pleaded guilty to the offences when he appeared at Leeds Crown Court on October 28.
Today 17/04, he was given an extended sentence of ten years and four months imprisonment with an extended licence period of five years.
Detective Inspector Ryan Malyk, of Leeds District CID, said: “Stewart put all these victims through some really frightening experiences when he carried out these robberies over a very short space of time.
“He was clearly desperate and dangerous, and those who encountered him were put in genuine fear when he confronted them at gunpoint.
“While we always advise members of the public in such situations to think of their safety first, we must recognise the incredible bravery that Niall Stranix showed in making the decision to tackle him while he was threatening his female colleague.
“Despite not knowing if the gun he was holding was real or not, he showed tremendous courage in taking him on and it was his actions that directly led to Stewart’s face being captured on CCTV and him being identified as the suspect.
“We hope that the significant prison sentence that Stewart has received will provide some comfort to all the victims as well as some reassurance to the wider community to know that he is safely off the streets.”