27th Jun, 2022

Ex-garage boss held up Coventry Post Office with fake gun

Correspondent 16th Mar, 2017

A MAN whose car body repair business was failing because of his drinking drove to his local post office in his works van and tried to hold up the sub-postmaster with a fake gun.

Mark Longden fled empty-handed after his victim, fearing for his life, dived to the floor and hit the panic alarm. But he was recognised by another staff member as a regular customer.

Longden (59) of Avon Street, Coventry, escaped being jailed after pleading guilty at Warwick Crown Court to attempted robbery and possessing an imitation firearm.

Instead Longden, who had just one conviction when he was fined for handling stolen goods 31 years ago, was sentenced to two years in prison suspended for two years, with a rehabilitation activity for 60 days.

Prosecutor Blondel Thompson said sub-postmaster Ranjit Thiara was at the Upper Stoke Post Office in Coventry Street, Coventry, around 5.30pm on December 8 when Longden entered.

He was wearing his blue work overalls, goggles and a decorator’s face mask, and Mr Thiara did not recognise him.

Longden pulled out what Mr Thiara believed was an antique-style gun, and pointed it at his victim through the glass screen, demanding: “Give me all you’ve got.”

As London fled, member of staff recognised him as someone who worked at a garage ‘up the road.’

When the police went to the garages they saw Longden burning the paper overalls and face mask, and found the ‘gun’ made from a length of tubing and pieces of wood bound by masking tape.

The distinctive van in which he had driven to and from the post office was parked nearby, but when he was questioned Longden claimed he had just gone there to buy cigarettes.

Recorder Stephen Linehan QC commented: “People who work in premises where there’s cash available are vulnerable to robberies or attempted robberies of this nature.”

David Murray, defending, said there were a number of references from relatives and people who knew Longden which showed the incident had been ‘completely out of character.’

Mr Murray said Longden had not dealt well with illnesses suffered by his wife and daughter and began drinking too much, as a result of which his car body repair business began to suffer.

He had had a good reputation, but vehicles were being returned because of poor quality work – and the business has since closed down.

Mr Murray said Longden was now off alcohol and attending weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.

Sentencing Longden, Recorder Linehan told him: “This offence ordinarily attracts a sentence of immediate imprisonment, and when that offence is accompanied by the use of an imitation firearm, that sentence becomes almost inevitable.

“That is the sentence I must pass, but I find that in the extraordinary circumstances of this case, I can suspend it.”

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