Malcolm Alker, 39, former Salford Reds captain and his co-defendant, 25-year-old Michael Naylor, both from Higher Ince, were sentenced at Bolton Crown Court today (Friday) for two counts of robbery and two of possessing a bladed article.The court heard how Alker, who was in Â£7,000 worth of drug debt at the time, wielded a machete as he and Naylor forced cash from terrified staff at Tesco Express in Whelley and KFC in Ince on Halloween last year.
Prosecutor Neil Beckwith told presiding Judge, Timothy Stead, that both defendants entered the Tesco store at around 10.20pm on October 31 dressed in black masks and armed with the knife.
He explained how they threatened store clerk, 23-year-old David Allan-Sears, demanding that he hand over cash. The pair made off with Â£120, some of which was branded with a tracking device.
Mr Sears later told police: “After the robbery I had trouble sleeping, I went to work the next day but had to go home early.
“It took two weeks until I did another late shift. I am still on edge and feel very suspicious and jumpy.”
Mr Beckwith then explained how the pair walked into KFC at Smithy Green just half an hour later as 19-year-old Adam Cooper and 18-year-old Natasha Cooper were closing up.
Once again Alker brandished the machete and made the staff hand over cash to the tune of Â£578. The pair were caught shortly after as Mr Cooper managed to get the getaway car’s registration number, which was later found by police with the defendants hiding nearby.
The court heard how Alker, who once coached at St Patrick’s Amateur Rugby League Club, lost “everything” in the years between retirement and the robberies.
Defence barrister, Paul Treble, told Judge Stead that Alker had been the owner of a successful business following his retirement from professional rugby in 2010.
It was not until his move back from Australia with his family that Alker found himself without a job and in financial difficulty.
Mr Treble said: “He couldn’t adjust. He got addicted to drugs. He was Â£7,000 in debt to people who were threatening to hurt his family.
“He decided to get money quickly. He didn’t think it through and hadn’t thought how frightening it would be for people.”
Naylor’s defence barrister, Kate Hammond, said that the 25-year-old - who has no previous convictions, could not explain how he had found himself in this position and “had not been able to explain” why he committed the crime.
Addressing the defendants, who appeared via video link from HMP Forest Bank and HMP Manchester, Judge Stead said: “It is clear that he (Mr Allan-Sears) was traumatised, affected and frightened by the experience.
“Mr Cooper had to change the site in which he works. These are not trivial matters.”
Speaking to Alker he said: “You have had a difficult time following your retirement from professional sport and your return from Australia.
“But that doesn’t even begin to excuse this serious criminal conduct and it’s for serious criminal conduct I have to sentence.”
The pair were given two concurrent four-year sentences for the robberies and two concurrent two-year sentences for the possession of a bladed article, all to run together.