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Shock at father who turned gun-wielding robber
3:40pm Wednesday 20th June 2012 in News
A YOUNG father who led bible studies at a church has been jailed for robbery.
Nathaniel Johnson, 24, a student from Godman Road, Chadwell St Mary, made off with more than £16,000 from the Matalan store in Lakeside Retail Park on December 2, after subjecting one of its managers to a terrifying ordeal lasting more than 45 minutes.
Judge Owen Davies QC, sitting at Basildon Crown Court, heard David Hughes was cycling away from the store after locking up for the night when he was approached by Johnson and Daniel Bent, 24, of Amberley Road, Leyton, in a BMW.
Mr Hughes was told to get in the car by Johnson, and when he refused, Johnson lifted his top to reveal what looked like an Uzi sub-machine gun.
Mr Hughes got in and was driven back to the store and forced by Johnson to open two safes while Bent waited outside.
Once the safe opened Johnson transferred around £16,000 into a holdall and fled.
Mr Hughes called the police and officers searched the area.
They soon found the empty BMW and within moments of their arrival, Bent appeared and confirmed he was the owner.
He told officers he had been involved in a road rage incident with a cyclist and they had gone their separate ways, and he was in the area visiting his friend, Nathaniel Johnson.
They then found Johnson hiding in a refuse area behind Carphone Warehouse.
Officers found a pair of gloves, a holdall and an imitation firearm, with Johnson’s DNA on them.
The money was recovered and returned to the store.
Judge Davies sentenced them both to five years in jail for robbery and possessing an imitation firearm.
He said it was a “complete mystery” why two young men with promising careers would commit robbery. The court heard Johnson, who has a two-year-old daughter, was in his second year of a health science degree and had ambitions to become a social worker.
He worked part-time in the NHS as a support worker, feeding patients and taking their blood pressure.
Johnson, whose father is a pastor, was also a regular church-goer and led youth bible studies and choir practice. Bent had qualified as an architect.
Judge Davies said: “It is quite extraordinary. These men are from god-fearing and hardworking families. That makes it a complete mystery.”
Breaking down, Johnson’s father Felix told the court his son carried out the robbery because he had promised to get Christmas gifts for his girlfriend’s family.