Robbery Death: 'Customers Held Suspect Down'

A masked armed robber who collapsed and died after being disarmed and pinned down by customers in a bookies has been named by police as Alan Levers.

The 50-year-old was believed to be wearing a gas mask and holding a fake gun when he entered a Ladbrokes branch on Crownhill Road in Plymouth, Devon, shortly before 7pm on Friday night.

Customers managed to disarm Mr Levers and held him on the floor while others raised the alarm, police said.

Officers then arrested Levers, who was already unconscious, but he was later declared dead.

Plymouth police commander Chief Superintendent Andy Bickley said the gun had been examined and appeared to be an imitation pistol.

He added that the four men in the betting shop at the time of the incident have been helping police with their inquiries and that no-one has been arrested in relation to the incident.

"I can share with you that the firearm has been initially examined by a police firearms officer and it appears to be an imitation pistol, though this still needs to be verified," he said.

"I would like to add, however, that there would have been no way of knowing this at the time of the incident. The actions taken by members of the public in the shop were brave and showed a disregard for their own safety."

Witness David Walker, 55, from West Park, Plymouth, said he walked in just five minutes after the botched robbery happened.

He said: "I went in about 6.55pm, to put a bet on the football. When I went in there, they were on the floor, they were scuffling on the floor, I just thought it was just a fight or something.

"There were the two men, customers I think, on top of him, and the bloke on the floor. There was a bloke behind the counter and an old guy with glasses standing around.

"The bloke behind the counter told me they weren't taking any bets and I had to leave."

He added: "I didn't see their faces, as they were holding the guy down at the back of the shop. I couldn't see any mask and there wasn't any physical movement, they were just holding him."

Ivor Green, 67, also from West Park, said he was not surprised at all that the customers had leapt to the defence of the staff.

"They would do that in a shop like this, it is our betting shop," he said.

"The staff become your friends, it's a little family, and it's no different to a member of your family being threatened. The guys in there would be protective of them."

Mr Bickley said that Mr Levers' family were being supported by police and that their thoughts and condolences are with them.

He added that a detailed, locally-led investigation has begun with support from major crime team detectives.

He appealed for other people in the immediate area around the time of the incident or anyone that had just left the store a short time earlier to contact the police on 101 or through Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

The witnesses who were inside the betting shop at the time of the incident are being offered full support by the police.

The case has been referred to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

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