A ROBBER who had just held up a hairdresser at knifepoint was caught thanks to the quick thinking of a bus passenger who realised he was using it as his get-away vehicle.
And after the actions of the passenger led to the police stopping the bus and arresting Gary Neels, a judge at Warwick Crown Court has awarded her £500 from public funds.
Neels, 35, of Chapelhouse Road, Chelmsley Wood, who had pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing a bladed article, was jailed for three years and nine months.
Prosecutor Graeme Simpson said that on October 31 last year, the Serenity hair salon in Gun Hill, Arley had three elderly customers on the premises when Neels walked in with his hood up and brandishing a knife.
He seemed ‘anxious and jittery’ as he pointed the knife at the owner and demanded money, so she took £20 from the till and handed it to him.
Neels then fled from the salon, and the owner called the police to report the frightening incident.
Meanwhile one of the women in the salon had told a friend what had happened, giving a description of what the robber had been wearing.
And shortly afterwards that friend, who was on a bus, realised that a fellow passenger who had just got on matched the description she had been given.
So she phoned the salon to tell the owner, by which time the police were there, and officers intercepted the bus and arrested Neels, added Mr Simpson.
Nick Devine, defending, said: “He has never done anything as serious as this before, but drugs have been an issue for him and began to play a large part in his life.
“The robbery itself was an impulsive, fairly ham-fisted offence. He made little or no attempt to conceal his identity and was picked out by everyone who witnessed the offence.”
Jailing Neels, Judge Peter Cooke told him: “A woman who runs her own hair salon was working with her adult daughter when you burst in wearing a hood and brandishing a knife.
“She turned to find this anxious, jittery man pointing a knife at her, and she took from the till a £20 note and gave it to you, and you left.
“But owing to the quick thinking of a lady on a bus, who thought she was witnessing the perpetrator of the offence, you were quickly arrested.
“I accept you have expressed what is genuine remorse, and you are showing a determination to address your drug issues.”
After sentencing Neels and imposing a restraining order banning him from the area of the salon, Judge Cooke added: “I am going to turn to the rather happier matter of congratulating and thanking [the bus passenger] for the role she played in the speedy apprehension of the defendant.
“It is my pleasure to award her £500 from public funds in recognition of her contribution to the rapid apprehension of an offender.
“She is to be congratulated for her quick thinking and public-spirited response.”