A BRAVE customer has been commended for his bravery after he tried to calm down a knife-man who caused terror in a shop.
Stephen Taggart found himself at the centre of a frightening scene when the knife-man brandished the weapon at The One Stop Shop in Meliden, North Wales.
He intended to take hostages until the police arrived.
But Mr Taggart bravely ushered other customers out and locked the door to prevent others from entering.
He then spent some time trying to calm down heroin addict James Edward Dolben (40) – said to have staged the drama as a cry for help so that he could get help with his long term heroin addiction.
Prosecuting barrister Nicholas Williams told Mold Crown Court how Mr Taggart had played down the incident in a later statement to the police and had not mentioned the fact that Dolben at one stage lunged towards his throat with the knife.
That was shown on the shop’s internal CCTV system, part of which was played to the court.
Judge Niclas Parry jailed Dolben for 12 months and commended Mr Taggart for his bravery.
He ordered that he be paid a £200 reward from public funds as a token of the public’s appreciation.
The judge said that it was “a reflection of his brave conduct”, which contributed to a decrease in what was “a very dangerous situation.”
Dolben of Water Street in Rhyl, admitted affray, having a six inch kitchen knife and criminal damage after he stabbed a lottery machine.
He was waving the knife around throughout the incident.
Judge Parry told him that he was out of control of his senses because of excessive alcohol.
“You carried out what can only be described as a terrifying, premeditated attack on a community shop,” he said.
He went to the shop armed with the knife intending to commit a serious offence and he brandished that knife for a number of minutes.
“You lunged at a member of the public and put the knife to his throat. It could have caused serious injuries or worse,” the judge said.
He declined every offer of help to put the knife down and caused “a scene of utter terror.”
Decent and brave people, particularly Mr Taggart, took on the responsibility of reducing the risk he posed and he did that at great personal risk to himself.
Judge Parry told him: “You say that this was a cry for help but people have been offering you help for some time and it was your choice to decline those offers.”
“Anyone who commits knife crime in North Wales, where so many tragedies have occurred because of knives, should know that it will always be custody,” he said.
Mr Williams said Dolben had said his plan had been to hold customers and staff hostage at the convenience store, until police arrived.
At 9pm on Thursday September 12 two people standing at a cash machine “froze in fear” when he produced the knife and told them to get out. One of them left his cash and card still in the machine such was his terror.
The manager recognised him as a regular customer who had been in the shop a little earlier.Customer Stephen Taggart entered the shop and tried to placate and calm him down and was able to usher other customers out and locked the door to prevent any more coming in.
He repeatedly asked him to put the knife down, but Dolben lunged towards him with the knife, holding it towards his throat. Then Dolben in frustration stabbed at the lottery machine and banged at the window when a crowd gathered outside.
Police arrived and as they got out of their car he was told to drop the knife but continued to hold it as he walked towards them. They twice used incapacitant on him and he was handcuffed and taken into custody.
It emerged that he had written a note to his mother telling her what he intended to do “because he wanted help with his heroin addiction.”
The note said that he intended to take hostages.
He had drunk three quarters of a bottle of brandy and told police that he wanted to return to the Ablett Unit at Glan Clwyd Hospital.
Dolben said that he had nowhere to turn but loved his family.
Matthew Dunford, defending, said that it was clearly a serious and frightening matter.
The phrase “a cry for help” was often used in court but it was genuine in Dolben’s case.
He had mental health issues, no doubt made worse by his use of heroin for some 20 years.
When he had the help and the stability he needed then there were no difficulties, he explained.
He needed help to re-establish links with the mental health team and the community drug and alcohol service, he said.