A STORE cashier showed ‘exceptional bravery’ as she tackled and foiled a drunken robber who had threatened to shoot her if she did not open the till.

But robber James Portman later claimed he was being ‘stitched up’ – despite having handed himself in after seeing a CCTV picture of himself in a local paper.

Portman, 30, of Fownhope Close, Redditch, was jailed for three years after pleading guilty at Coventry Crown Court to a charge of attempted robbery.

Prosecutor Paul Dhami said the offence took place at the Tesco Express store in Studley while Carolyn Fitter was working behind the counter at 9.20pm on April 26.

Portman walked in and stood behind the customer she was serving, and when that person left, he asked her how much 24 cans of Stella wound cost.

When she said she did not know, he asked her to show him where they were - and as she opened the door to come from behind the till, Portman pushed her back and demanded: “Give me the money out the till.”

He went behind the till area, and when she said she could not open the till, he told her: “Give me the money, or I’ll shoot you.”

As Portman began to struggle to pull something from his pocket, her immediate terror was that he had a gun, but she quickly saw that it was in fact a bottle of beer.

She began to shout at him and try to push him out from behind the tills and, with the help of a colleague, Ms Fitter managed to push Portman out of the shop where he bizarrely accused them of hurting his brother and making him bleed.

When they questioned him, he replied that he was sorry, and that he had got the wrong shop, and he left.

After a CCTV picture of the incident appeared in a local paper, Portman walked into Redditch police station with a clipping  and handed himself in, saying: “It’s me in that picture, but I don’t do that sort of thing.”

Portman, who had convictions for 83 offences including one for a robbery in 1997, added he had drunk a lot, and could not really remember what had happened.”

Judge Alan Parker asked why Portman had not been charged with possessing an imitation firearm, and Mr Dhami said it was because Ms Fitter had ‘almost instantaneously’ realised the object in his pocket was a bottle.

Mr Dhami added that Ms Fitter has been affected by the incident.

Richard Hull, defending, conceded: “The pre-sentence report is not the most helpful of reports because of Mr Portman’s lack of co-operation, which reflects his difficulty in coming to terms with the offence he committed when in drink.”

Judge Parker said the report did not indicate any remorse because Portman had claimed to the probation officer that he was not guilty and was being ‘stitched up.’

Mr Hull responded: “He does not assert he had been stitched up in any way.  He’s there, plain as day, on the CCTV.

“Having seen himself in the paper he handed himself to the police and accepted it was him, but he did not accept in his interview any genuine intention to commit a robbery.  But he has had time to reflect on what must have been his intention.”

Jailing Portman, Judge Parker told him: “Using a ruse, you barged your way beyond the security door and threatened her and told her to open the till or you would shoot her.

“Fortunately the lady you had threatened quickly realised that what you had in your pocket was not a gun and her terror that she was to be shot quickly dissipated.

“Her realisation emboldened her with the most exceptional bravery and she pushed you away.

“What a sharp distinction between a cowardly man on the one hand and a brave woman on the other hand.  You should be ashamed of yourself.

“You did not indicate a guilty plea in the lower court and you told a probation officer you were pleading not guilty and had been stitched up.  All that shows a complete lack of remorse.”