Man tried to rob bookies with banana - Saturday 12th of March 2005

A bungling robber who tried to hold up a London bookies with a banana was jailed for nearly seven years today.

Robert Downey's costly slip up began with his unconvincing choice of weapon from a nearby fruit shop.

Desperate to feed his crack habit, the masked raider reckoned without the "barrel's" give-away bend, plainly visible through the flimsy blue carrier bag it was still wrapped in, London's Southwark Crown Court was told.
"I want the money or I will f****** shoot you," he screamed.

Eyeing the unusual shape as the "weapon" was thrust through the gap beneath the bullet proof security screen, betting shop worker Peter Humphrey calmly turned to a colleague and said: "He said he has a gun, but it might be a banana."

Realising his hold-up was not having the intended impact, Downey decided a pair of scissors might help.

"They were shiny, metallic and he pointed them from his pocket, but seeing no money was going to be handed over he ran out of the shop," said Patrick Cahill, prosecuting.

Police were called and quickly found the 24-year-old nearby trying to pull off an over tight balaclava after having dumped his banana.

Soon afterwards, a police dog found the badly bruised fruit still in its bag about 100 yards away.

Downey, of Melville Court, Chatham, Kent, who had only been released from a six-year sentence five months earlier for a similar hold-up, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted robbery at William Claridges Limited in Aberfeldy Street, Tower Hamlets, east London, last November.

He also admitted possessing an "imitation firearm".

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