A SHOPKEEPER who tackled a teenage gunman holding up his store today told how he has been the victim of death threats since foiling the armed robbery.
Khurram Mirza decided to “take a chance” despite fears he would be shot and pulled away a scarf from the masked raider’s face after noticing his shaking hand.
The 35-year-old recognised regular customer Gary Smith, 18, who escaped a jail term on sentencing at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday.
But Mr Mirza, who has run S&R Superstore in South Street in Armadale, West Lothian, for the last four years, said that Smith’s arrest had left him feeling more vulnerable in the small community.
One customer, said to know Smith, told him: “Gary used a fake gun. I’ll bring a real one and blow your head off.”
Mr Mirza said other customers had been left scared to frequent his shop after he fell victim to three armed raids in 18 months.
He said: “I knew Gary as a regular customer. Sometimes he was OK and we would have a chat and other times he was quite rude.
“But when he came into the store this time he had totally changed. I did not recognise him because of how he was acting. I was serving a customer and he had the gun and demanded all the ‘f****** money’.
“The customer was very scared but I told her not to worry. Then I saw that Gary’s hand was shaking. I could see that he did not have the confidence to do it and he’s not a strong boy.”
Mr Mirza tried to make Smith drop the gun and pulled down his scarf during the struggle. Smith, then 17, fled empty-handed.
Mr Mirza added: “This was the third robbery in 18 months. I had two robberies at knife-point and one of them pushed the knife against my stomach.
“I feel my life is at risk, but I don’t have the money to give up. If someone has a knife or a gun I still can’t afford to let them have money.
“I’ve lost a lot of customers since the robberies. I think that people are scared to come here. Also, people who know Gary don’t come to the shop because they blame me for what happened to him. It’s a small town, so the impact on my business had been great.
“One person told me: ‘Gary used a fake gun. I’ll bring a real one and blow your head off’. It’s left me really scared to work but I have no choice. I don’t have enough money to hire employees, so I work 80 hours a week myself.”
Smith, formerly of Eastfield, Lanarkshire, earlier admitted assaulting Mr Mirza by presenting a gun or fake firearm at him, attempting to strike him with the weapon and attempting to rob him on April 7 last year.
Yesterday, judge Lord Burns told the teenager that in normal circumstances he would have “little hesitation” in sending him to custody.
But the judge told him he had come to the view that it was an exceptional case which he could deal with by a non-custodial sentence.
Smith was ordered to be supervised for three years under a community payback order and carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.
Mr Mirza added: “I don’t mind that Gary has not been jailed. I just hope that he recognises that he did wrong and he learns from it. That would be enough for me.”