A MASKED woman held a knife to a nine-year-old boy’s throat and demanded he open a cash till during a terrifying hold-up at a corner shop.
Two robbers burst into Nairne Convenience Store, in Willowbrae, while Manand Patel’s dad and uncle were stacking shelves nearby.
The woman threatened the boy with a 14-inch blade before brandishing the weapon at the men and saying she would kill them if they tried to help him.
Manand screamed for his father and desperately tried to open the till for the male robber, but he could not reach.
Dad Bharat bravely ignored the warning and pushed past the woman before jumping on the counter to protect his son before the pair fled the shop empty-handed.
Bharat, 44, described how the woman, whose knife was “as long as his forearm”, told him and his brother Rajan: “Stay here or we’ll kill you.”
He said his son was his “first priority”, adding: “We were not bothered about what happened to us, we just wanted to save him. I wanted to save my son rather than save the money – he could have been killed.”
Bharat and Rajan had been re-stocking in the upper level of the shop, which is up several steps and overlooks the till area, while Manand was playing a game on a mobile phone before the robbery at around 8.45pm on Wednesday. Shocking CCTV footage shows two people, dressed entirely in black with their faces covered, walking into the shop with the knife.
Manand can be seen cowering behind the counter before his dad jumps up in front of him and robbers run out on to Lady Nairne Grove.
Rajan, 36, said: “He was just screaming, ‘Daddy, Daddy’. He couldn’t reach the till. He was trying to avoid the knife and trying to open the till, but he couldn’t. He’s okay, but he couldn’t sleep at night.”
The brothers tried to chase the pair up the hill, but lost them and returned to console Manand.
“I didn’t know if there were more people outside. They had a knife, so we didn’t want to take a risk,” said Bharat, who said the woman looked “unfit”.
They suspect that the robbers looked through the window to see that Manand, a pupil at Leith Walk Primary, was alone behind the till.
The busy shop, which has been run by the Patels since 2009, was also targeted three years ago, when an employee was threatened and a laptop stolen. The family now plans to have two workers in the shop at all times for extra security.
Rajan said: “We are very lucky that everybody was safe. We’re not worried about money – no-one being injured is the main point.”
Detective Constable Jonny Wright said both suspects were described as being in their mid-20s and around 5ft tall.
He said: “This was a seriously distressing incident for the people involved and I would urge anyone who saw the suspects or any suspicious behaviour in the area at the time of the robbery to contact us.”
The incident is the latest in a spate of attempted thefts and robberies from independent grocery stores in the Capital.
Gordon Henderson, from the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “Business crime should be taken every bit as seriously as home-based crimes. These people are serving their communities and providing a vital service. Other shopkeepers need to be reassured that something is being done.”
Mr Henderson added: “The boy will be scarred; he’ll remember this for the rest of his life.”