AN ALLOA man has been jailed for the armed robbery of a Wee County ice-cream shop after saying he did it to get help.

Connor Whalen, who was a Scottish youth boxing champion, admitted the crime when he appeared for sentencing last week.

On Friday, November 15, The High Court in Edinburgh heard that Whalen's life had spiralled out of control in recent years.

He became mixed up in substance abuse and decided, last August, that he needed money to pay for his drug habit.

The court heard that he walked into the Orlandi and Son cafe in Sunnyside Court, Alloa, on August 26 and presented an imitation firearm at a terrified staff member.

After threatening the 64-year-old with the weapon, Whalen fled with just £65.89.

Police launched a manhunt and carried out their inquiries over the course of a few days.

Officers later arrested the 24-year-old on Thursday, August 29. He co-operated with detectives and appeared at Alloa Sheriff Court the following day.

Isla Davie QC, prosecuting, said: "He told officers what happened. He said: 'The gun's no real. I want to go to jail because I'm desperate'."

The story emerged after Whalen pleaded guilty to a charge of armed robbery before judge Lord Beckett.

Ms Davie told the court that he walked into the shop at 11.15am and asked the staff member for a packet of cigarettes.

She continued: "When the complainer was ringing up the cigarettes, the accused presented the firearm at her and said: 'Miss, give me all the notes'.

"When she opened the till, the accused leaned over and stole the money contained within.

"He made off with £65.89."

The court heard that police arrested Whalen shortly afterwards and he subsequently told them where they could find the weapon used in the raid.

Detectives found that the firearm was a gas powered ball bearing gun.

Defence advocate Grant Markie told the court that his client recognised that the robbery must have been a "terrifying incident" for the staff member.

He added: "He was a youth Scottish boxing champion from the age of 11 to the age of 15.

"However, he has become addicted to crack cocaine and heroin in recent years."

Lord Beckett jailed Whalen for four years and three months.

Passing sentence, Lord Beckett said: "It is clear that your crime was planned and premeditated.

"People working in shops and restaurants provide a public service and there is a reasonable expectation that they should feel safe and be protected.

"It is the duty of the court to deter people who maybe considering undertaking crimes such as the one you committed and to ensure the continuing safety of people in such situations.

"If you had not pleaded guilty, the sentence of the court would have been six years and six months."