Robber choked petrol station cashier, leaving him unconscious and bleeding - The Rugby Observer

Robber choked petrol station cashier, leaving him unconscious and bleeding

A ROBBER tried to choke a petrol station cashier, leaving him unconscious and bleeding on the floor, before callously searching him and taking his car keys and driving off in his car.

Christopher Wooldridge’s victim was still unconscious when the police arrived at the Texaco service station on the A5 near Rugby after a customer arrived and raised the alarm.

After seeing a ‘harrowing’ CCTV recording of the attack, a judge at Warwick Crown Court remarked that there had been ‘a real and present danger of death.’

Concluding there was ‘no end in sight’ to the danger Wooldridge poses to the public, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC imposed an extended ten-year prison sentence.

He will have to serve at least two-thirds of that, and will only be freed before serving the whole sentence if the Parole Board considers it safe to do so – and he will then be on licence for the rest of the term and for an additional ten years.

Wooldridge, 25, of Harleston Road, Northampton, pleaded guilty to attempting to choke or suffocate his victim with intent to commit an offence, robbery, making off without payment and two charges of aggravated vehicle taking.

Prosecutor Tom Kenning said that in August Wooldridge, having been drinking, took his sister’s Peugeot 307 from her home near Barnsley and drove back towards Northampton – only to crash into the central barrier on the M1.

Seeing Wooldridge by the wreckage, an HGV driver gave him a lift to the Texaco service station on the A5 at Gibbetts Lane, near Lutterworth, just after 4am.

A CCTV camera captured him walking towards the petrol station shop, stopping to put on latex gloves and a face covering, which he did not fully pull down.

Wooldridge walked into the shop and grabbed the cashier round the throat from behind ‘in such a way that he seemed to know what he was doing.’

The harrowing recording showed the cashier’s desperate struggle as Wooldridge clung on tightly round his neck, not relaxing his grip even when they fell to the floor.

After about 30 seconds the victim stopped struggling as he passed out, and there was some ‘involuntary jerking’ of his body as Wooldridge maintained his grip for another 50 seconds.

The cashier had hit his head during the struggle, and as he lay in a pool of blood, Wooldridge searched him and took his car keys before going behind the counter and stealing cigarettes and packs of beer.

Wooldridge returned to the unconscious cashier and took money from his wallet, then helped himself to more cigarettes before leaving and driving off in his victim’s Vauxhall Astra at high speed across a verge onto the A5 – but later crashed it near Northampton, said Mr Kenning.

Another car had pulled onto the forecourt, and that customer found the cashier and raised the alarm.

The victim was left vomiting blood and had a burst blood vessel in his eye as a result of being choked, and later said he feared working alone at the service station.

Mr Kenning added that Wooldridge had six previous convictions for aggravated vehicle taking, and at the time was wanted on recall to prison for failing to comply with his licence after being freed from a sentence for kidnapping, during which he was said to have used a Taser on his victim.

Graeme Logan, defending, said Wooldridge was concerned at a probation officer’s assessment in a pre-sentence report that he is a dangerous offender, arguing that although he had had contact with the probation service, the report was written by an officer who ‘doesn’t know him at all.’

He argued that the offence should fall within a range of nine to 12 years, as set out in the sentencing guidelines for robbery, before credit from Wooldridge’s guilty pleas.

But Judge Lockhart responded: “This isn’t a robbery, this is strangulation with intent to commit a robbery. That’s what will be the lead sentence.”

Mr Logan, who argued it was the other way round, and that the strangulation was ‘part and parcel of the robbery,’ added: “He is shocked and appalled by the behaviour he exhibited in August.”

Jailing Wooldridge, Judge Lockhart told him: “In one of the most terrifying pieces of footage this court has had to witness, you approached (the victim) from behind and put your arm round his neck and you squeezed, and squeezed, and squeezed for a minute and 20 seconds in a clear attempt to suffocate him, and you left him on the floor unconscious.

“His body goes limp, his body begins twitching, and you hold, and you hold, and you hold, until he stops resisting.

“You stood up and, without a thought for him, you searched his pockets and took his money and his keys.

“The video of this is harrowing. The potential harm is the real and present danger of death. Where someone is left for dead, there can scarcely be a more serious offence.

“I agree with the assessment. I am satisfied you are dangerous. There is no end in sight to the risk you pose.”

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