A MAN accused of armed robbery pleaded not guilty so that he will be able to see his sick mother more often over the Christmas period.

Thomas Roberts, 29, of Neville Close, Bolton, is one of three men charged with attempted robbery after a newsagent was targeted by an armed gang.

At Bolton Crown Court yesterday Michael Elwood, 53, of Haydock Street, Bolton and Leon Blears, 32, of Fern Street, Bolton, both pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted robbery, following an incident on October 18, 2019, during which four men are alleged to have raided M & H News in Bath Street, Bolton and attempted to steal a cash till.

But Roberts pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted robbery and being in possession of an imitation firearm, described as a “black hand gun”.

Nick Ross, defending, said his client had made the plea on a “tactical” basis due to wanting to spend Christmas attending to his sick mother.

He added that his client would enter a guilty plea at his next appearance.

It is understood that the not guilty plea will entitle Roberts to more visitation rights while he is in prison on remand.

The court heard from Gavin Howie, prosecuting, that a fourth man was also in custody and was expected to enter guilty pleas.

Explaining to Roberts that he had now forfeited his right to a reduced jail term, Judge Graeme Smith told the three men that custody was “inevitable” for a “very serious offence.”

All three men were remanded in custody and will next appear at Bolton Crown Court via video link on January 3, 2020.