A KNIFE-wielding robber stole from two bookmakers and a friend he was staying with.

John Penhaligon, 49, travelled from his home in River View, Grays to stay with a friend in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire for five days from September 9.

On September 10 he went to a branch of Betfred armed with a knife. He demanded money from the till and warned staff not to press any panic alarms.

A terrified employee handed him about £200 in cash and he calmly walked out of the shop.

The following day Penhaligon went to another branch of Betfred with another man, this time in Horsefair, Wisbech.

He produced a knife, waved it through the gap underneath a Covid-19 protective screen and demanded money from the till.

The employee showed him there was no money in the till, so he demanded she opened the second machine which contained a number of £5 notes.

Fearing for her safety the employee handed Penhaligon about £85 in cash. As she did so she asked him why he was robbing the shop, to which he replied “because I am skint mate.”

On September 13 Penhaligon left his friend’s home and returned to his home, but not before stealing his host’s Samsung Galaxy mobile phone, £230 in cash and a pair of blue Adidas trainers.

When the victim realised what had happened he contacted police.

Penhaligon was arrested and in interview denied committing the robberies. He also denied stealing from the friend and said he had not seen him “for years.”

However, he later went on to admit two counts of robbery, two of possession of a knife in a public place and one of theft.

On Friday at Peterborough Crown Court he was jailed for five years.

DC Natalie Hines of Cambridgeshire Police said: "Penhaligon clearly thought nothing of the trauma he was inflicting on the people he threatened and callously took advantage of someone who was supposed to be his friend.

"Being short of money is absolutely no excuse for behaviour like this and I am pleased that justice has been done."