Page last updated at 21:08 GMT, Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Postmistress, 72, resisted robber

Post office sign
Loyden had denied carrying out the robbery at Town Yetholm

A court has heard how a 72-year-old postmistress struggled with a knife-wielding robber at her rural branch.

Patrick Loyden, 41, of Cornhill, in Northumberland, was convicted of assaulting and robbing Sheila Jeffrey at Town Yetholm post office near Kelso.

Temporary judge Kenneth Maciver said her "plucky resistance" had largely foiled the raider's efforts.

Sentence on Loyden was deferred at the High Court in Edinburgh and he was remanded in custody.

Mrs Jeffrey told the court how a man wearing a motorbike helmet came into her post office in September 2008 looking for a first class stamp.

This was clearly a nasty, cowardly crime and the evidence suggests the perpetrator knew it was quiet and quite probably it was manned by a single, female postmistress
Temporary judge Kenneth Maciver

However, as she went to get one he said: "I want money, give me the money."

"When he said that he came at me with a knife," she added.

Mrs Jeffrey, who has been a postmistress for 26 years, said her thumb and middle finger were cut as he brandished a knife.

"The next thing I saw the knife coming towards my stomach," she said.

"I grabbed hold of the knife with my left hand and was cut.

"He started to hit my head against a steel box that was behind me."

The postmistress said she feared she was going to pass out and called for her daughter Angela Lyall, who was in the building.

She told the court: "I could hear my mum's voice saying 'You are not getting the money'."

High Court in Edinburgh
Sentence was deferred at the High Court in Edinburgh

She saw the helmet-clad robber pushing her mother and shouted at him to get out.

She told her mother to press the panic alarm and tried to shut a door to prevent the raider escaping, but he managed to get out.

Mrs Jeffrey said that after the attack she discovered £127 was missing.

The court then heard how a passing couple who were informed of the raid tracked a vehicle seen leaving the area.

Peter and Ann Mather, both in their 70s, set off in their car in pursuit of the vehicle.

It eventually slowed down and they wrote down its registration number.

Loyden was traced later the same day in the village of Sprouston near Kelso.

Defence solicitor advocate Iain Paterson accepted a horrible crime had been committed at the post office.

'Brave intervention'

However, he argued that the Crown had got nowhere near the standard required for proving the charges against Loyden with no fingerprints, no DNA and no identification.

That was refuted by advocate depute Sheena Fraser who said there was a chain of evidence in the circumstantial case which pointed to his guilt.

Loyden had denied assaulting and robbing Mrs Jeffrey, attacking her daughter and resisting arrest but he was convicted of all the offences.

The judge said: "This was clearly a nasty, cowardly crime and the evidence suggests the perpetrator knew it was quiet and quite probably it was manned by a single, female postmistress.

"Had it not been for her plucky resistance and the brave intervention of her daughter, who it was quite possible you did not know was there, the consequences could have been quite different.

"The robbery was to an extent foiled by the combination of their actions."

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