Knife thugs unmasked by brave manager during Wigan shop raid are locked up

John Crossland and Michael Tither
John Crossland and Michael Tither

Knife thugs who were tackled and unmasked by the Wigan shopkeeper they were trying to rob have been jailed for a total of more than 13 years.

Bargain Booze manager Graham Hammond bravely tried to disarm one of his black-clad assailants during a violent struggle at his Standish outlet in which the victim’s hand was slashed and he was beaten over the head with a till drawer.

The Hammonds outside their shop

The Hammonds outside their shop

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After the snood covering the face of one of the would-be robbers was torn off by Mr Hammond, both crooks fled, but were later arrested after police chases.

This week John Crossland, 43, of no fixed address, and 36-year-old Michael Tither, of Acacia Avenue, Beech Hill, were both given custodial sentences of six years and eight months for robbery and knife possession after they admitted to their crimes.

A Bolton Crown Court judge heard that the pair struck at just before closing time on the night of Sunday March 31 this year.

Brandishing a kitchen knife with a blade of up to 8ins, Crossland threatened the manager and ripped the cash drawer from the till.

Mr Hammond, who runs the Preston Road shop with wife Lorna, wrestled the first intruder to the ground in a bid to thwart the robbery.

He said: “It was the end of the night, I was in the back doing a quick till-up. I heard the ping go on the front door, so I came out to the front to find there was a chap waving a knife at me, saying ‘open the till!’”

Faced with the blade, says adrenaline took over and he immediately tackled the robber in an attempt to disarm him, before Tither, who was wearing a white surgical mask, joined in the struggle.

The 52-year-old said: “I did a silly thing, trying to get hold of the knife. I would not advocate anyone doing that, it was a very stupid thing to do. But I was incensed that someone was waving a kitchen knife at me in my own shop. On reflection, I feel pretty stupid for getting involved in that way.”

Mr Hammond was then struck over the head with the till drawer, allowing the pair to make a quick getaway.

They ran off towards Collingwood Street where they got into a black coloured 4x4 pick-up, which was seen a short time later by police just before it crashed into a metal post and the occupants ran away.

Officers gave chase on foot. An officer caught up with Crossland relatively swiftly in the garden of a home and detained him.

Reinforcements were then brought in, including the police helicopter and eventually Tither was located and arrested too.