A man who had broken into the cellar of a Coventry social club grabbed a member of staff when she came into the room and robbed her of the day’s takings.
But even though he had part of his face covered, a police officer who watched a CCTV recording from the Highway Sports and Recreation Club recognised the intruder as Troy Ford.
Despite that, Ford (27) of Queen Margarets Road, Canley, Coventry, pleaded not guilty at Warwick Crown Court to robbing Susan Morris of around £535.
But on the day of his trial he changed his plea to guilty, and also admitted possessing heroin on the day of his arrest, and was jailed for four-and-a-half years.
Prosecutor Caroline Harris said that on January 21 Mrs Morris was working behind the bar at the Highway Sports and Recreation Club in Fletchamstead Highway, Coventry.
At around 11.30 she began cashing up, and took one of the till drawers, containing around £535, into the cellar area.
Unknown to her, Ford had already broken into the cellar, and when she saw the door was open, she put the till drawer down and went to investigate.
As she got to the door she was grabbed round the throat by Ford who demanded: “Give me your money.”
She screamed and, hoping he had not seen her with the till drawer, she told him she did not have any and bravely tried to kick him to free herself from his grip.
As they continued to scuffle, Ford, who had part of his face covered with a scarf, ordered her: “Just do as you’re told.”
But Mrs Morris managed to break free and ran to the door shouting to a customer in the club who shouted back, at which Ford grabbed the till drawer and made off with it.
A CCTV recording showed Ford in the club that night trying to open a till, and when a police officer was shown the recording by Mrs Morris’s husband, he recognised Ford.
In the early hours of January 23 the officer was told that Ford had been seen going into an address in Tile Hill, where he was found hiding in an attic bedroom and was arrested.
At the police station he was searched and told to squat down, and a package of seven wraps of heroin dropped to the floor.
When he was questioned, Ford denied carrying out the robbery, claiming he was elsewhere at the time and putting forward the name of an alibi witness, said Miss Harris.
She added that Ford had a number of previous convictions, including a robbery at a bookmakers in 2006 when he had threatened staff with a Samurai sword, and wounding with intent in 2008 when he had smashed a vodka bottle into the neck of someone in the street, causing wounds which needed more than 50 stitches.
Richard Baker, defending, said of the robbery: “This was an opportunistic offence committed to obtain money to purchase more drugs. The actual physical contact lasted a very short period of time.”
He said Ford, who apologised from the dock as he entered his guilty plea, had come off drugs while on remand in prison.
During that time he has had to tell his eight-year-old daughter, who lives in France, why he could not see her on her birthday in May, and his current partner has given birth to their child.
And of Ford’s hopes for the future, Mr Baker added: “He wants to become a family man, rather than a prolific offender.”
Jailing Ford, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told him: “Some of your later offences were similar to this, when you had gone late at night into commercial premises.
“Here, having done that, on seeing someone, rather than running away, you attacked her.
“You had been scouting around to see if there was anything worth stealing, and then she came into the room. You used a considerable amount of force on her.
“You have been to custody every year since 2013, and you were on supervision on licence from your last offence at the time.
“But you have been working to free yourself of drugs, and you look better than I had expected.”
Support community journalism by making a contribution
The Coventry Observer's team of journalists provide a trusted source of news, sport, entertainment and events going on in your area and issues which matter to you - both via our free weekly print edition and daily updates on our website.
Every contribution, however big or small, you can make will help us continue to do that now and in the future.
Thanks for reading this and the Coventry Observer.