A GANG of four bungling robbers who raided a newsagent with an imitation firearm have been jailed.

Michael Elwood, 53, of Haydock Street, Bolton, Leon Blears, 32, of Fern Street, Bolton, and William Fisher, 38, of Haydock Street, Bolton, were all sentenced to four years and ten months, for their roles in attempting to rob the M & H Newsagents in Bath Street, Bolton, on October 18.

The gang’s leader, Thomas Roberts, 29, of Neville Close, Bolton, was jailed for six years and five months, after he pleaded guilty to both attempted robbery and possessing an imitation firearm, which he used to threaten shopkeeper Mustak Chhadat during the terrifying incident which was captured on CCTV.

Bolton Crown Court heard how the four men burst into the shop at around 6.30am with Roberts and Fisher heading for the counter where Roberts tried to open the till before the pair tried to pull it out from the plug.

With Blears and Elwood acting as look outs, Mr Chhadat then fought back, using a broom to attack Roberts who threatened him with the imitation gun and kicked him before running out of the shop.

Nothing was taken in the raid, but in a victim impact statement read to the court by prosecutor Gavin Howie, Mr Chhadat said he would “never forget” what happened.

“I am trying to be brave and smile but I’m scared, especially during the dark times in the shop,” he added.

Mr Howie told the court all four of the men had long histories of committing similar offences with Fisher having 48 previous convictions and Roberts, who had only been released from prison two days before, racking up 32 previous convictions for 54 offences.

Mark Friend, defending Fisher, said his client was “in the thrall of a prodigious drug habit” while Andrew Nuttall, defending Blears, said he lived “a chaotic lifestyle, largely through drugs”.

Defending Roberts, Nick Ross, said his client was “a hardened drug addict” who had attempted the robbery to pay off a large drugs debt.

He added Roberts would like to apologise to Mr Chhadat “face to face”.

Sentencing the four, Recorder Simon Killeen, said: “This must have been a terrifying experience for Mr Chhadat and you all played your parts.

“It was only an attempted robbery because of his courageous behaviour using only a broom against a firearm.”