A jury has cleared a Liverpool man accused of carrying out a knifepoint robbery at a Bedford newsagent early on Boxing Day last year.
48-year-old Jason Speed told Luton Crown Court he had spent the evening of Christmas Day at the home of his girlfriend and stayed the night with her at the house in Swale Path, Bedford.
He said he didn’t get up on Boxing Day morning until 11 to 11.30am – five hours after the knife-point robbery in which over £5,000 was taken from the safe of the shop in Avon Drive.
On Friday (7 June), Mr Speed, of The Wharfe, Bedford, was found not guilty of robbery and having a bladed article.
He did, however, plead guilty to possessing cannabis and was fined £150.
The court heard how, on 26 December 2018, at about 6:30am, a female member of staff stepped outside for a cigarette, an hour after opening up Martins newsagents in Avon Drive.
Moments later, a man walked up to her brandishing a 10 inch knife.
Prosecutor Jollyon Robertson told the court: “He held the knife against her and said he was going to stick it in her. He said he would murder her if she pressed the alarm.
“The man took her back into the shop and told to get the key to the safe.”
Mr Robertson said the woman was “shaking” with fear as she got the key and opened the safe.
“He was threatening to stab her if anyone came in,” said the prosecutor.
Mr Robertson said the safe was opened by the shop worker, who was then forced to hand over £5,000.
The court was told that “strangely” the robber gave the woman a “cuddle” before fleeing with the cash.
The prosecutor said that as the robber fled out the door, a woman was approaching the shop and heard him shout back to the shop worker: “Don’t call the police!”
The next day, Mr Speed was arrested in Swale Path, Bedford.
He denied he had committed the robbery, and the jury heard officers found £1,340 on him, which he claimed was his own money.
Giving evidence, Mr Speed said he had come to Bedford from his native Liverpool eight to nine years ago.
He said he was unemployed and receiving benefits.
Mr Speed told the jury he was a former heroin user but, during his time in Bedford, he had stopped taking the drug. He had been taking methadone prescribed by a GP to prevent withdrawal symptoms.
He said there had been a few occasions when he had taken a small amount of heroin.
The jury then heard how, by December of last year, he had been in a relationship with a woman in the town for some seven to eight months.
On Christmas Day, he said it had been arranged that he would spend the day at the home in Swale Path in Bedford where she lived with her father.
He said he had Christmas dinner at the house and that night stayed over at the property with her. Mr Speed said he didn’t get up the next morning until around 11 to 11.30am.
He said on Christmas Day he had arrived at the house with £1,700 on him which was savings and which he intended spending at the Boxing Day sales in Bedford town centre.
The jury was told that he and girlfriend went shopping as planned that day and that night there was a party at her home.
He told the jury he learnt that evening from his girlfriend’s sister that news of the robbery at the shop had been posted on Facebook by the partner of the shop worker.
He said that, as a result, “it was going around on social media” that he (Speed) was involved and so he rang a telephone number that accompanied the Facebook post to speak to her partner.
“I told him ‘It’s Scouse’ and he started getting verbal down the phone. I told him it weren’t me that held the shop up,” he said.
Mr Speed said that when the man started shouting down the phone, he ended the call, telling the jury: “I just wanted to make sure they knew it wasn’t me.”
He said he was still at his girlfriend’s home the following morning when the police arrived and arrested him.
The money officers found was his own and what he had used for shopping in the sales the day before, he said.