A man who raided two Bury St Edmunds businesses at gunpoint has been jailed for more than five years.
Ipswich Crown Court heard today that Matthew Eke, 40, had been ‘desperate’ to pay off a debt owed to London drug dealers.
Eke, of Ashwell Road, Bury, struck at All Over Beauty in West Road and Court Stores in Glastonbury Road last September.
The court heard that on September 14, Eke – wearing a dust mask and carrying a BB gun inside a plastic bag – approached a member of staff inside All Over Beauty after the business had closed for the day.
Prosecutor Michael Crimp said Eke had probably gained access through a fire door and had repeatedly demanded money from the woman who said he had appeared agitated.
The woman handed Eke up to £150 in cash and he fled as another member of staff called the police.
Three days later, on September 17, Eke walked into Court Stores, again wearing a mask and carrying a gun in a bag, said Mr Crimp.
Eke, who repeatedly demanded money, pointed the bag at the shop manager and threatened to shoot.
The manager, who initially thought it was a joke, refused to give him any cash.
Eke was seen escaping the scene on a bicycle.
Mr Crimp said that on September 14, Eke had stolen a vacuum cleaner from Sainsbury’s in Bedingfield Way and admitted to police he had committed a similar offence a week earlier.
Eke pleaded guilty to armed robbery, attempted armed robbery, two counts of possessing an imitation firearm and two further charges of theft.
He asked for 19 other offences to be taken into consideration. These included eight house burglaries – two in The Vinefields, one in Blomfield Street, three in Fornham Road and one in Northgate Avenue – and 11 thefts – nine from shops and two from leisure centre changing rooms – of goods valued at more than £4,000.
In mitigation, Noel Casey said Eke had been desperate to clear an old drug debt owed to dealers in London when he committed the offences.
Judge Rupert Overbury sentenced Eke – who had 41 previous convictions – to five years and four months imprisonment.
Speaking after the hearing, Detective Constable Duncan Etchells, of the Operation Converter team, said: “A number of these burglaries had not been reported to police – possibly because Eke had gained entry via an unlocked door or open window – and, after corroborative enquiries, crimes were recorded to reflect his offending and his detailed admissions.
“It’s a case where one offender has caused considerable distress to both store workers and home owners and shows again how one individual can be responsible for a spate of offences.
“The courts treat armed robbery and home burglary very seriously and this is illustrated by the sentence that has been handed down. We hope this has given his victims some reassurance and we will continue to target offenders who are responsible for these types of offences.”