A Scarborough police officer who disarmed a gun-toting robber in a local supermarket has been recommended for commendation.
Pc Sarah Widdrington was off duty and in Tesco’s Westwood store with her teenage son on November 22, last year, when a man approached a cashier, pulled a gun and demanded money.
York Crown Court was told how the officer tackled the raider, struggling with him until the store manager joined in and helped her take him to the ground where she was able to disarm Robert Vogan.
Commending the actions of the officer to the Chief Constable of North Yorkshire, The recorder of York, Judge Stephen Ashurst, said her actions in tackling Vogan, 52, of Manham Hill, Eastfield, were “quite exceptional” and that she had been “exceptionally brave”.
He added that not knowing whether the firearm was real or not, and in circumstances where many others would have simply dived for cover, Pc Widdrington’s “instinctive response does her credit” and minimized the potential harm to others customers and staff.
Mr Shaw told the court that after Pc Widdrington grabbed Vogan, store manager David Keough rushed in behind him and helped take him to the floor.
The court heard that at first Pc Widdington had suspected the gun was an imitation, but after grabbing hold of the weighty weapon she became concerned that it may be the real thing.
Vogan, who has served two previous lengthy prison sentences - sentenced to five years imprisonment in 1998 and nine years in 2002 for attempted robbery and robbery, including the use of imitation firearms in committing them, was said to have carried out the Tesco incident as “a cry for help”.
The court heard that he later told the police that he could not cope with his life, buying an imitation Smith&Wesson revolver for £99 for the specific intention of robbing the store.
Since diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia, Vogan had pointed the BB gun directly at a female member of the supermarket staff, causing her to flee in terror, shouting for help.
Howard Shaw, prosecuting, told how the woman, who had been unable to stop shaking for several hours, had been left with on-going effects, receiving counselling, afraid to go out in crowded places and feeling angry because before the events she had been an outgoing person.
Vogan, with over 50 previous convictions since 1978, appeared before the court for sentencing, having previously admitted one charge each of attempted robbery and possessing an imitation firearm whilst committing the crime.
The court heard from two psychiatrists that Vogan had now been diagnosed as suffering from a mental health illness and required hospital treatment.
One of the doctors told the court that the attempted robbery of the Tesco store had probably been a “cry for help”, Vogan using it to bring the attention of others to the fact that he was experienced difficulties and failing to respond to treatment in the community.
Passing a hospital restriction order on Vogan, the judge said that the events on the store must have been “terrifying” and that the public had to be protected.
He said that restriction order would act as a safeguard, that Vogan would not be released from the hospital order before he was ready because it would involve input from both doctors and the Ministry of Justice to decide whether he was ready or not.
The hospital order will last as long as it is felt that Vogan still represents a danger.