A FORMER army engineer who carried out three masked raids at knifepoint has been jailed for five years, writes Bob Burgess.
Craig Stevens targeted the Shell garage in Jedburgh twice within two weeks and also robbed the Somerfield supermarket in Croft Road, Hawick.
The supermarket raid took place on May 30 last year, while he struck at the Jedburgh garage a few months later on August 13 and August 24.
During one of the garage robberies plucky worker June Campbell told Stevens to "piss off" before locking herself in the office and alerting police.
Before he fled the 23-year-old snatched 87 from the till.
The High Court in Edinburgh heard last week that Stevens, of Farrier Court, Kelso, was experiencing financial problems after losing his job. He'd admitted the robberies at an earlier hearing when sentence had been delayed while reports were prepared.
Defence advocate Victor Dunn said Stevens felt shameful and deeply regretted his actions.
The advocate told judge Lord Kinclaven: "He left school at 16 and his immediate desire and achievement was to get into the armed forces to serve his country, and he did that right away. This was seven years ago when this country was involved in dangerous duties abroad.
"He then goes on to have a reasonably good work history. But that did not work out for him and he found himself in an unemployment situation. His goals are to get back to work and put this behind him."
Lord Kinclaven said the five-year jail term would have been seven years and six months had Stevens not entered an early plea of guilty.
And he told the ex-soldier that he took into account his positive and constructive lifestyle prior his offending behaviour, and also his army service.
But the judge said custody was the only option. He told Stevens: "You have accepted responsibility for serious offences - three charges of assault and robbery all involving a knife and also theft by opening a lockfast place.
"The offending involved a degree of planning and the court must mark the seriousness of your offending."
Weeks after Stevens' encounter with Ms Campbell, a farmer told police he had found clothes, a knife and rope in woodland overlooking the Edinburgh Road garage. And the High Court learned that DNA taken from Stevens matched samples found on a pair of black jeans.
He admitted robberies at the garage on August 13 - when he stole 90 - and the second raid on August 24. He also pleaded guilty to a knifepoint robbery at the Somerfield supermarket which netted him 350. And he admitted stealing a sat nav from a parked car in Jedburgh in February this year.
Prosecuting, advocate depute Andrew Stewart QC said Somerfield cashier David Gillespie, 20, saw Stevens walk towards his kiosk wearing a black hoodie, a dark-coloured scarf covering his face and carrying a black-handled kitchen knife.
And Mr Stewart said that in the early hours of August 13, Callum Farries was alone in the stockroom of the Shell garage when he heard someone entering the shop.
Stevens was wearing a home-made green mask and pulled a bread knife from a shopping bag and demanded money.
The advocate depute said that Ms Campbell was also working alone at the garage - sorting papers when Stevens sneaked silently into the premises.
He began mumbling and had something in his hand which she did not realise was a knife.
Mr Stewart told the court: "On realising he was going to rob the garage she told him to wait and she would go round to the till.
"She went into the office area where she locked herself in after telling the accused to "piss off" and she immediately phoned the police.