A WEE COUNTY man who robbed a newsagents in Tullibody in front of two young girls has been jailed for 16 months.

Marcus Hunter pleaded guilty to robbing RS McColl's when he appeared via video-link at Falkirk Sheriff Court yesterday, Tuesday, June 6.

Claire Bremner, prosecuting, said the offence took place just before 12noon on February 23 of this year.

She said: "Two young girls entered the shop, and shortly thereafter the accused walked straight up to the counter and said [to the female shop assistant]: 'Give me the money out the till.'

"She initially didn't think the accused was being serious, but he repeated the request in an aggressive tone.

"This frightened the two young girls who ran from the shop."

Hunter had his right hand concealed under his sleeve while demanding the cash, leaving the shop assistant "concerned for her safety".

After being handed a roll of £20 notes, he repeatedly demanded more, and was handed a roll of £10 and £5 notes too.

He then wiped the shop counter and handle of the front door using his jacket sleeve before fleeing the scene.

In the days after the incident, police suspected Hunter, 25, and found that he had signed out of the hostel he was residing at at the time of the offence.

He was eventually traced by officers on February 27, and was taken to Falkirk Police Officer that day.

During a police interview, he was wearing the same clothes as he had been when committing the robbery – but denied any involvement in the offence until this week.

In mitigation, Kelly Howe, defending, said Hunter had issues with drug addiction since his late teens and has previously been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.

She said he was struggling for money at the time of the offence, and committed it without any thought to the consequences for himself or the victims.

Ms Howe then asked the sheriff to consider an extended discount on any sentence, taking account of the fact her client was admitting the offence, and the current situation in prisons in respect of the Covid-19 outbreak.

Sheriff Derek Hamilton said Hunter, formerly of Clackmannan, had a "significant record" of previous convictions for similar offences.

He was previously handed a prison term of more than four years in 2015 for two separate robbery attempts in the area.

Hunter, claiming to have a knife, entered Timpsons in Alloa before demanding money and threatening to stab the cashier, before fleeing on foot empty-handed.

He then later tried to rob a man at knifepoint at Tillicoultry's Woolpack Inn before fleeing again with any money.

A few years earlier, as a 17-year-old, he held a taxi driver at knifepoint and demanded money.

However, in sentencing on his latest offence yesterday, Sheriff Hamilton said he was prepared to discount his custodial sentence from 24 months to 16 months, "given the current prevailing circumstances".

The sentence was backdated to February 28, when Hunter was first remanded in custody.