Luke O’Brien threatened to slit shop workers’ throats and stole hundreds of pounds in a spate of robberies last May, but felt justice yesterday with a 13-year prison sentence.

O’Brien, 24, of no fixed address, committed a series of knifepoint robberies across Swindon over four days, as well as snatching an elderly woman’s handbag, before he was caught by police.

The crack cocaine user began his crime spree at 3.10am on May 9, when he entered McDonald’s, in Great Western Way, and made off with almost £100.

Two days later he entered The Co-op in Moredon Road on May 11 at 9.10pm, when he jumped on the counter and threatened to kill the store supervisor if she did not give him money.

On that occasion he escaped with a cash drawer containing £666.

Two days later at Juniper Stores, in Marigold Close, he was disarmed and chased off by courageous employee Nagaraj Valliyapan.

Later that same day, O’Brien, without his knife, snatched a handbag belonging to Jennifer Legg, 66, as she walked with her daughter in Purton Road.

Wiltshire Police caught him that night.

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Sentencing O’Brien, pictured, Judge Tim Mousley QC said: “You committed a series of very serious robberies, or attempted robberies, within small businesses.

“When you failed to get everything you wanted from those, you committed a violent street robbery from a lady in her middle to later years.

“Your apology has been consistent and you provide it to the court today in this letter, though I’m sure it will have something of a hollow ring fort the victims.

“You were under the influence of crack cocaine at the time and your crimes have had a long-lasting effect on the people involved and their families.”

After sentencing, the judge reserved special praise for the courage of Kirsty Marks and Mr Valliyapan.

Ms Marks, a Co-op employee, chased after O’Brien as he made off with the store’s cash drawer while carrying the six-to-eight-inch blade he had used in each incident.

Mr Valliyapan was praised for his role in disarming O’Brien at Juniper Stores in a struggle which put his life at risk.

Each will receive a token gesture of £150 from the High Sheriff of Wiltshire under recommendation from the judge.

Prosecuting O’Brien, Colin Meeke gave accounts of the impact his crimes had had on the various victims.

In the Juniper Stores incident, two 12-year-old girls were in the newsagents as O’Brien and Mr Valliyapan grappled with each other behind the counter.

He said: “One girl said she was just so scared, she thought she could help the man, but she was only 12, so that was impossible.

“When she got out she tried to find help, but just sat crying, unable to communicate when they got to a friend’s house.

“She’s been back to the shop since the robbery and says she is still scared.”

O’Brien was sentenced on four counts of robbery, three counts of threatening behaviour with a bladed article and one count of unlawful wounding.