Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Jail for rural post office robber

Town Yetholm - Picture by Walter Baxter
The attack took place in the Scottish Borders village of Town Yetholm

An armed robber who carried out a "cowardly" attack on a 72-year-old postmistress in a Scottish Borders village has been jailed for nine years.

Patrick Loyden, 41, of Cornhill, in Northumberland, had earlier been found guilty of the 2008 raid.

Temporary judge Kenneth Maciver praised the "brave resistance" shown by Sheila Jeffrey at the Town Yetholm branch.

He said the targeting of a quiet rural office was an "aggravating feature" in the sentence given to Loyden.

He had been found guilty at the High Court in Edinburgh of assault and robbery at the branch near Kelso in September 2008.

'Rural location'

The court heard how Mrs Jeffrey had struggled with a man, who was wearing a motorbike helmet and brandishing a knife.

He eventually fled when Mrs Jeffrey's daughter Angela Lyall appeared and she also showed the "courage to tackle an armed robber".

Post office sign
These must remain open, safe and accessible for the benefit of the public at large
Temporary judge Kenneth Maciver

Mr Maciver told Loyden he had perpetrated "a vicious, cowardly attack" on Mrs Jeffrey in the pre-planned crime.

"This was the targeting of a post office in a quiet, rural location, manned, as you thought, by a single, female postmistress, although as it turned out on the morning her daughter was also there," he said.

He said that was an "aggravating feature" as in rural Scotland there were many "small, single-manned and, of necessity, low security post offices and other premises where money is kept in volume".

"These must remain open, safe and accessible for the benefit of the public at large," he added.

He said the court must seek to protect them by imposing sentences that contained a deterrent element.

Mr Maciver pointed out that the evidence showed Loyden had visited the post office the day before the raid to check out the layout and staffing and had also used a knife in the robbery.

'Circumstantial evidence'

He said Loyden had an extensive criminal record and had previously been jailed 12 times.

The judge also praised the actions of pensioners Peter Mather and his wife Ann who had tracked a vehicle believed to be the robber making his getaway.

The couple followed a 4x4 in a 15-minute pursuit in order to take down its registration details.

Mr Maciver said their "public-spiritedness and determination" had helped to bring Loyden to justice.

Defence solicitor advocate Iain Paterson said his client still maintained his innocence over the attacks on the women and the post office raid.

"He feels he has been the victim of circumstantial evidence," he said.

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