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Fake victim who helped organise robbery jailed

Credit: Gwent Police

A shop worker who pretended to be the victim of a robbery she helped organise has been jailed.

Michelle Williams, 34, was captured on CCTV playing the part of the innocent victim who was overpowered by a knife and crowbar-wielding assailant and forced to hand over cash.

On Wednesday, Cardiff Crown Court heard how police initially believed Williams' account, but soon found out she was actually in on the planned robbery, which left her unsuspecting co-worker terrified and feeling betrayed.

James Wilson, for the prosecution, told the court Williams was dropped off at the One Stop convenience store in Usk, South Wales, by her partner Benjamin Bailey, 37, at 5.50am on February 12 last year.

Her colleague Beverly Davies arrived shortly afterwards.

Concealed in Bailey's vehicle was a 17-year-old disguised in a hat and camouflage jacket, armed with a 3ft crowbar and a knife.

Mr Wilson said the teenager, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was aged 15 at the time when he forced his way into the shop, put his arm around Williams' neck, brandished the weapons and demanded money.

He said: "It was a planned robbery, Michelle Williams worked at the shop and she knew where the cash was kept and also who would be on duty that morning."

The court heard the youth appeared to force Williams into an office area where she opened the safe while effectively pinning Ms Davies in a corner of the room by waving the crowbar at her.

Judge Neil Bidder QC said: "You used actual force on Ms Williams to add reality to the robbery.

"Beverly Davies was terrified both by the weapons, which included a knife, and the violence which was a pretence but was very convincing, on Williams."

The court heard Williams' partner Benjamin Bailey was behind the planned robbery Credit: Gwent Police

The youth took the money, which totalled £2,785.19 cash and was later shared between the conspirators, and left the shop where, once outside, he was picked up by Bailey.

In her victim impact statement which was read to the court, Ms Davies said she felt betrayed and has had trouble sleeping since the incident.

She said: "My whole life has changed by what has happened to me.

"I was a very confident person before it happened, I was obviously aware that these things happen but I never thought that it would happen to me, and certainly not arranged by someone who I thought was a friend."

Williams initially claimed to be a victim but police arrested her five days later.

At an earlier hearing the trio admitted robbery.

Claire Pickthall, defending the youth, said he accepted he was fully culpable for the role he played in the offence but claimed Williams and Bailey were responsible for organising it.

The court heard he had an unstable background but there had been an improvement in his behaviour in the past year.

Ms Pickthall said he was now a "very different young man" and asked for him to be given a chance to "prove this is all behind him".

Sarah Waters, for Bailey, said he, a builder by trade, had a good work ethic but was addicted to crack cocaine at the time of the robbery, which was committed in order to fund his habit.

He had since weaned himself off the drug, she added.

Rosamund Rutter, defending Williams, said her client was in a relationship with Bailey which involved taking Class A drugs.

She was "thoroughly ashamed" of what she had done and was a hard worker, who at the time of the offence, was the main breadwinner in the household.

Williams and Bailey, both of Henwain Street, Blaina, were sentenced to six years and four and a half years in prison each, respectively.

The teenager was sentenced to an 18-month detention and training order.

Commenting after the hearing, Mani Ranauta, from the CPS, said: "Michelle Williams had been placed in a position of trust by her employers and she abused that.

"She not only helped Bailey and the youth, but pretended to be a victim, lying to the police."