A Kempston postmaster and an estate agent were confronted by a masked armed robber who was planning to lower himself into the shop to rob the safe.
The two men disturbed Marek Jozwiak, 45, after he had broken into the unoccupied flat and had pulled up the floorboards to break-in through the ceiling.
Jozwiak, who had £48,000 debts, pointed the gun at the postmaster before fleeing downstairs and out into the street.
Today (Monday), Jozwiak, of Foster Road, Kempston was jailed for six years, having pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and having a firearm. The Pole now faces deportation.
Prosecutor Charles Ward-Jackson told Luton crown court that at 10am on 10 September last year the postmaster took the estate agent to see the flat, which he was wanting to rent out.
Mr Ward-Jackson said, “He was startled to see the defendant coming out of kitchen. He was wearing dark clothes and balaclava.
“He went back into the kitchen and reappeared with a revolver which he pointed at the postmaster and he left.”
The prosecutor said Jozwiak had forced open a UPVC door and pulled up floorboards. He left behind tools, a rope and a hook. He said: “It looked as if he was planning to lower himself into post office below.”
A silencer, cable ties to tie up staff and a second balaclava were also recovered. On the balaclava the police found a DNA match with Jozwiak.
Jozwiak, who was aided in court by a Polish interpreter, was arrested at his home. The imitation gun, which could fire blanks and flares, was found in a plastic box under a sofa bed.
More cable ties and a notebook were recovered. In it were messages that read, “If you do as I say you will be all right,” and “Where is the safe?”
In a victim statement, which he read to the court, the postmaster said he had suffered a “traumatic experience” at the hands of someone he had known for several years.
“It still scares me. Had I not gone to the flat I dread to think of the consequences to my wife and the female staff. The experience left us shaken and suspicious of people,” he said.
Defending, Mark Nicholls said the project manager was a highly-educated man who had acted totally out of character.
“His marriage broke down and this meant he owed money to his ex wife. He borrowed money to pay her and couldn’t pay it back. “
He said he owed £48,000 and threats were being made to him and his family.
Mr Nicholls said Jozwiak “sincerely wished to apologise” for what he had put the postmaster through.
Jailing him, Judge Andrew Bright QC said: “It is fortunate that your plan was frustrated when the postmaster and the estate agents came upon you.
“Your intention was to tie up members of staff having lowered yourself in and held them captive.
“It is was extremely alarming and upsetting for the postmaster.