THE hapless thug who aimed an imitation rifle at an Alloa shopkeeper during a failed robbery has been jailed for two years.

James Jaffray, 32, strolled into the Keystore on Burleigh Way carrying the firearm on August 17 of this year.

The High Court in Edinburgh heard on Wednesday, November 22, that he pointed the gun at Jabbar Ali before Money Singh, another member of staff, wrestled the weapon from his possession.

Mr Ali told the Advertiser of how he managed to buy time to allow his colleague to return from the back of the shop and catch the culprit on his blindside.

He said: "It was very scary but in the back of my mind I thought what can I do? He [Jaffray] told me to open the till so just to give myself a few extra seconds I asked, 'What do you mean?'

"One of my staff members was in the back then he came through and I just said 'grab him'. Within a few seconds we managed to get a hold of him.

"It was a really brave thing for him to do," the shopkeeper added. "We tell all our staff to just do what the person is telling you to do.

"For a split second you don't know what to do. I noticed the guy didn't see him so that gave me the push to tell him to just grab him. Before that I didn't know what to do.

"We just held him by his neck and his hands. The police were here within a minute after that. We didn't have to hold him for a long time."

Jaffray, now a prisoner of HMP Barlinnie, pleaded guilty to assaulting Mr Ali and to attempted robbery last month.

Lord Summers, presiding, was shown the CCTV footage of the incident and sentence had been deferred for the court to obtain reports.

Before the judge last Wednesday, defence solicitor advocate Krista Johnston said her client's motivation came from a desire to help his brother who owed drug dealers some money.

Ms Johnston added that Jaffray admitted his guilt and had expressed remorse for his actions.

Lord Summers told him that he would have received a three year sentence if he hadn't pleaded guilty.

The shop has since tightened its policy on people entering the premises with hats on or hoods up, and Mr Ali took the opportunity to thank customers for their support and understanding.

He said: "It definitely does affect the whole community, not just us. Customers came in afterwards. On our Facebook page we got hundreds of messages asking us if we are okay.

"It felt good. We are a great part of the community and it was nice to see that.

"It does make you wary. We have changed our routine in the shop and how we work to minimise the risk.

"Thank you to our customers for being so understanding after the incident, for asking about us and putting up with our new strict rules regarding wearing hoods and hats in the shop, and [thank you to the] the great staff we have got in the shop, for always working as a great team."

Mr Ali then explained how the store experienced small acts of generosity from young people in the area.

He added: "A wee boy came into the shop and gave us a pound and said he didn't want to buy anything.

"I asked why he was giving me it and he said '...because you just got robbed'."

The shop shared the story on its Facebook page with customers rallying behind the staff.

Kay Lawrence said: "Aww, that is just so lovely. Great store, great staff."

Laura Beedie added: "So nice to see kindness that way, restores your faith in humanity."