Hero pensioner blocked armed Post Office robber

The robbery took place in Plean Post Office last December
The robbery took place in Plean Post Office last December

An armed robber who spilled most of the cash from a terrifying raid after he was tackled by a courageous pensioner was jailed for four and a half years today.

Ross McLay (34) snatched a tub containing £1770 at a Post Office and tried to flee after holding a chisel near the face of a proprietor.

Customer James Gavin (76) deliberately blocked the raider’s exit and grabbed his sleeve and hood and tried to kick him, but lost his balance and fell.

McLay tried to get away with the tub of cash but dropped most of the money before fleeing down an alley after the robbery in Plean.

A judge told McLay at the High Court in Edinburgh that he had deliberately taken a weapon into a small, local post office and threatened violence with it.

Lady Clark of Calton said: “A brave customer, Mr Gavin, tried to stop the accused and struggled with him as a result he dropped most of the money, but retained the sum of £450.”

The judge described the crime as “a selfish and cowardly response” to McLay’s own personal problems at the time of the robbery on December 3 last year.

She told the robber: “This behaviour is completely unacceptable.”

McLay admitted assaulting proprietors Craig McNicol and Katie Armstrong, presenting a chisel at them, demanding money, struggling with Mr McNicol and robbing them of money at the Post Office, in Main Street, Plean.

Advocate depute Ross Macfarlane said that McLay was unemployed and of no fixed abode at the time of the offence.

The prosecutor said he was seen acting suspiciously outside the cafe and post office premises and covered his face with a neckerchief and pulled up the hood of his top before entering.

He approached Ms Armstrong with the chisel in his hand and pushed past her and was seen grabbing the tub containing banknotes.

Mr McNicol tried to stop him and they struggled over the tub until McLay held the chisel near his face and demanded: “Give me the money.”

“Holding the tub in one hand, the accused made for the front door of the Post Office, brandishing the chisel in his other hand,” said the prosecutor.

But at that point Mr Gavin, who had seen what was going on, intervened to try and stop him. The dropped money was recovered and the police were contacted.

The day after the robbery McLay told an elderly family friend: “I done the Post Office.” He also revealed to another family friend that he had carried out the robbery.

McLay later handed himself in to a police station in Stirling but was initially considered to be unfit to be interviewed because he appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

Mr Macfarlane said Mr Gavin suffered bruising to his arm in the fall, but no lasting injury or side effects.

Defence counsel Derick Nelson said McLay had fallen out with his girlfriend and moved back to Plean and began taking drugs again.

Mr Nelson said the robbery was “a pretty ill-thought out, ham-fisted” bid to get money. Events were caught on CCTV footage and the defence counsel said it was clear that at the time McLay carried out the crime he was “unsteady on his feet”.

He said McLay appreciated a jail sentence had to be imposed on him and added: “He clearly regrets his actions bitterly.”