Two shop workers were threatened with an imitation gun and a kitchen knife during a terrifying and violent raid at a convenience store.

One of the men was cut in the face with a knife and told at gunpoint to kneel down and pray to Allah as John Garnett and Marley Khan unleashed a torrent of “gratuitous violence” at a McColl’s store in Southport.

The traumatised victims feared for their lives during the harrowing ordeal and were barricaded into the staff toilets and told they would be killed if they attempted to leave.

Police arrived as the pair attempted to leave the store, on Portland Street, with Khan, who was wearing boxer shorts as a makeshift balaclava, surrendering at the main entrance and Garnett attempting to get away from a side door.

Prosecuting, Louise McCloskey told Liverpool Crown Court: “Both the complainants are supervisors who have held their posts there for over 10 years.

“They were both working on September 10 when the two defendants entered at 9.20pm.

Marley Khan, 27, of Forest Road, Southport
Marley Khan, 27, of Forest Road, Southport

“Mr Sutton was working at the wine shelf when he heard a bell sound and the door open, which is not unusual even at that time of night.

“Mr Lawrence was also working and noticed the men enter and walk towards Mr Sutton."

Khan blocked the door with a piece of wood and Mr Sutton was then punched to the side of his head by Garnett, described by one of the victims as “the angry man”, who demanded the safe be opened.

The employee told him to take whatever he wanted but was still subjected to sustained violence and threats.

Ms McCloskey said: “Mr Lawrence was told to sit down and had the gun pointed at his face. He recalls fearing for his life.”

Khan and Garnett cleaned out the tills and demanded the shop’s safe be opened. It was explained that only Mr Lawrence could open the safe, at which point he was told to get up and the 12” knife was “jabbed in his face, causing a small laceration”.

He explained that the safe operated on a ten minute time delay, during which time he was repeatedly punched to the face by Garnett.

Garnett became more agitated during this time and threatened to cut his throat and told him he would be shot if he tried anything. At one point, Mr Lawrence attempted to take out his phone but it was immediately taken by Garnett.

After clearing out the safe, the pair had taken a total of £1,780 and forced their victims into the toilets, barricading the door and threatening that they’d be killed if they left.

At some point during the robbery, a neighbour called 999 after hearing banging and a voice yelling “get the money”.

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Ms McCloskey said the victims next heard a police officer enter the store, yelling “get to the ground”.

Khan presented himself with his hands in the air, while Garnett was arrested trying to leave through another exit. He told an officer that he would “smash his face” and spat at him in custody, resulting in an additional charge of assaulting an emergency worker.

In interview, Khan, 27, gave a prepared statement in which he claimed he had been at the pub with Garnett and went to the shop to buy alcohol, not knowing what was being planned. He also submitted a basis of plea which claimed he was not complicit in the robbery and attempted to calm Garnett, 33, down throughout.

However, this was dismissed by Judge Andrew Menary QC who observed that Khan, of Forest Road, was involved in the violence and threats and brought the wood to block the door.

John Garnett, 33, of no fixed address
John Garnett, 33, of no fixed address

In his interview, Garnett, of no fixed abode, said he was in debt to drug dealers who ordered him to carry out the robbery. He said the dealers, who he refused to name, had provided the gun and threatened violence against him and his family if he did not rob the shop.

In a victim statement summarised by Ms McCloskey, Mr Sutton said it was an “extremely frightening experience” in which he was genuinely scared for his life and which fears he will never forget.

Mr Lawrence’s statement explained that he still has flashbacks to that night, adding; “I enjoy my job but these robbers have ruined it for me through not fault of my own.”

Defending Garnett, who has 27 previous convictions for 52 offences including violence and weapons, Paul Becker said that his client was ashamed of what he had done.

He said: “He was at the time addicted to cocaine and in debt to the tune of £1,000. He was under pressure and went on to commit this serious offence.

“He regrets what he did and understands he has serious psychological harm.”

Arguing against an extended license, Mr Becker said that Garnett had used his time in custody constructively, acting as a mentor to others and being trusted with knives while working in the kitchen. Defending Khan, Andrew Walker said his client was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder which meant he was “reclusive” and “not on the same wavelength as others”.

He said Khan has problems with social communication and interaction and that his social awareness and motivation fall within the “severe range”.

But Judge Menary disputed whether any of this affected his ability to recall the events of the night and said he did not deserve full credit after initially entering a not guilty plea, which was changed days before a trial was due to begin.

Sentencing, Judge Menary said: “You jointly and quite gratuitously terrorised and threatened the staff.

“You [Garnett] said to Mr Sutton, sneering as you did, that he should kneel on the floor and pray to Allah.

“He thought you were joking, tried to diffuse the situation but you told him that you were serious and him and his colleague would be killed if the safe wasn’t opened.

“Mr Khan claimed they were put in the toilets to put distance between them and Mr Garnett. I doubt that very much. It was likely a device to ensure that you could escape.”

For offences of robbery and possessing the knife with intent to cause fear, Khan was handed an eight year sentence.

For robbery, possession of an imitation firearm and assault of an emergency worker, Garnett was also given eight years but also handed an extended licence. That means he won’t be eligible for parole until two-thirds of the sentence and will spend an extra four years on license.