Robber dragged teenage girl to ground in Gateshead underpass and held blade to shop worker's throat

John Spedding, jailed for a series of robberies and attempted robberies
John Spedding, jailed for a series of robberies and attempted robberies -Credit:Northumbria Police

A knife wielding robber who targeted two teenage students and three women working in shops in a spate of terrifying attacks has been jailed for ten years.

John Spedding went on a spree of offences during which he targeted who girls near Gateshead College, dragging one down some steps and trying to put his hand over her mouth in an underpass, leaving her thinking she was going to die.

He then robbed a Morrisons and a Spar shop, holding a knife to one shop assistants throat while gripping her in a head lock. Newcastle Crown Court heard the violent spree started on November 10 last year around 2.45pm, when an 18-year-old student was in an underpass near Gateshead College.

Spedding dragged her back down a flight of stairs and she fell to the ground. Rachel Glover, prosecuting, said: "He was crouched over her and tried to put his hand over her mouth when she screamed. He said if she didn't stop screaming he would cut her and he would cut her if she didn't give him some money.

"She pleaded with him to let her go and saw he had a knife in his right hand." Spedding was searching the teenager's handbag when other people came upon the scene and he made off. The victim was left with bruises to her elbow and knee.

He then followed a 17-year-old girl who had just finished college and was heading towards Gateshead Interchange. She also went through the underpass and heard the first victim scream and saw her on the ground with Spedding with his hand over her mouth.

She was scared and ran off but as she got near Home Bargains, she became aware he was behind her. She was able to get away after getting the attention of a member of the public.

The first student said in a victim impact statement that she was "terrified and thought she was going to die" during the incident. She was left struggling to sleep and found it hard to write due to her injured arm. She was also left feeling nervous by the ordeal.

The second victim said she was left "shaken" by what happened and doesn't feel safe returning to the underpass and started taking a longer route to college. Three months after the offence, she said she realised it had affected her more than she first thought.

She said it had affected her college work, caused flashbacks and left her feeling nervous and is "jumpy and scared" when people come up behind her.

Spedding pleaded guilty to two counts of attempted robbery and having a bladed article in relation to those offences.

Two days later, on November 12, he robbed a woman working in Morrisons around 9.30am. Miss Glover said: "He entered the store and went behind the counter before holding her in a head lock and holding a knife to her throat while demanding she open the till and hurry up."

He grabbed the cash from the till before telling the terrified woman: "Next time open the f****** till faster". The victim said her "life flashed before her eyes as he held a knife to my throat".

She said she tried to continue with her job but ended up handing her notice in and taking a job working from home, where she feels safer. Spedding pleaded guilty to robbery and possessing a bladed article.

The next day, he targeted two women working in a Spar shop around 9pm. He approached them carrying a knife and demanded they open the till, saying "I'm sorry I don't want to do this but I need to, I need money."

When told the till couldn't be opened as it was computerised, he said: "I'm going to have to hurt you". One of them pressed the panic button and Spedding grabbed some cigarettes and alcohol before fleeing.

One of the women said she "truly believed he would use the knife" and that despite not being easily upset, she was "really shaken up". Her colleague was left feeling scared.

Spedding admitted robbery and having a bladed article in relation to that offence. He also carried out a burglary in South Shields on November 14.

The 28-year-old, of no fixed address, who has 42 previous convictions which started when he was just 13, was jailed for ten years with an extended licence period of a further five years.

Vic Laffey, defending, said he has mental health issues and drug and alcohol issues.