ROBBER Alison Lee dressed up as a man before carrying out armed raids on shops in Barnsley – and escaped justice for seven years.
She was finally caught out when police conducted a cold case review of the offences, using recent scientific technology to match her to a palm print she left behind and a fingerprint on an imitation gun recovered by police after the raids in 2004.
Lee wore a deerstalker hat and used a false moustache for the raids at shops in Barnsley.
It took a jury at Sheffield Crown Court only half an hour to decide that she was responsible.
Lee, 42, was convicted of two offences of attempted robbery and another two offences of possessing an imitation firearm. She denied the charges but is now facing a jail sentence.
The court heard she tried to rob tills at the One Stop store in Kendray, Barnsley, and a few minutes later at the Co-op supermarket in Hoyland, but on each occasion fled empty-handed.
Witnesses gave various descriptions of the would-be robber and all believed it was a man.
One Stop assistant Andrea Holmes said the only words uttered by the raider in a broad Barnsley accent as “he” came up to the till were: “Twenty Lambert and Butler.”
As she got a packet of the cigarettes the “male” lifted up his jacket top and pulled out a nine-inch long gun. “It looked like a real gun,” she said before hitting the floor.
“I couldn’t see any hair but he had a black moustache,” she said.
The would-be robber pointed the gun at her chest from a foot away. “I honestly thought he was going to shoot me,” she said.
Debbie Hattersley at the Co-op said she was suspicious of the “man” because his head was down and his hands were in his pockets.
The offender produced a gun. “The man never spoke to me,” she said.
She pressed a panic button as the raider tried to open her till: “I didn’t known whether the gun I had seen was real but I assumed it was,” she said.
She too noticed the black moustache which was “not particularly groomed or trimmed”.
The court heard that in 2004 the police did not have the technology to match Lee’s prints but a 2010 cold case review uncovered a match on a new database.
Lee had been arrested and fingerprinted in 2009 for an unrelated offence which was later dropped.
Her palm print on the £10 note and a fingerprint from the gun magazine were matched. Lee was arrested in May, 2010 but made no comment to police.
Paul Reid, defending, asked her to explain how her prints came to be on the note and gun.
She said: “I have got a few friends that have kids and come to my house and I go to theirs.”
Mr Reid asked her: “Did you put on any false moustache?” She replied: “No.”
Under cross-examination by Gordon Stables, prosecuting, Lee said she decided not to tell the police anything because she did not know what she was doing on the day in question.
When it was put to Lee that it was her and not a man on CCTV photos produced to the jury she replied: “Definitely not.”
Lee, of Royston, Barnsley was said to be a recovering heroin addict at the time of the offences. She will be sentenced later.
She has previous convictions dating back to 1989 for possessing drugs, shoplifting, perverting the course of justice and in 1993 for kidnap involving the use of an imitation firearm.
The judge Recorder Bernard Gateshill said the shop assistants were left terrified.
He warned Lee: “You have been convicted of very serious offences. You will appreciate that it is virtually inevitable that a custodial sentence will be passed upon you.”