Brave Kendal shop manager honoured for trying to fend off robber

Sharon Walker (second from left) with Cumbria’s High Sheriff Alan McViety, her mum Val Walker-Neighbour and His Honour Judge Richard Archer. Credit: Sharon Walker

A courageous Kendal convenience store manager, who tried to detain a robber despite him telling her he had a knife, has been honoured for her bravery.

Sharon Walker, 54, was just four days away from a hip operation when she caught James Karl Dean trying to snatch cash during a dramatic daytime raid on 19 May this year.

A female accomplice had distracted Mrs Walker by asking for directions, allowing Dean, 41, to sneak into an upstairs office at the Spar store on Sandylands Road.

Mrs Walker, who has worked at the council estate community shop for 35 years, described herself as "laid back".

She recalled: "He just stood there with all this change. He said ‘I’ve got a knife in my pocket and I’m leaving with it now’. I just went for him.

"I just absolutely launched myself at him trying to get the bags which I knew wouldn’t hold that weight."

Mrs Walker managed to grab one bag and a handful of the robber’s shirt, which ripped.

She then banged her head in the struggle.

"I thought ‘God, don’t throw me down the stairs, I need this operation," she said.

Dean dropped a final bag, but as he fled Mrs Walker gave chase.

"I’m chasing after him and meanwhile I’ve asked [voice call assistant] Siri to phone police. I’m shouting down my phone, trying to leg it after him," she said.

"The people in the shop didn’t realise what was going on. It was so surreal.”

Police listened over the phone as Dean made abusive threats to return.

As he fled with over £1,000 in staff wages, Mrs Walker provided a commentary. He left in a vehicle but was later detained and brought before Carlisle Crown Court, admitting robbery.

"I was fine. I was more mad," said Mrs Walker of the immediate aftermath.

"We’ve worked hard for that money and he was going take it.

"But when you think about what you’ve done and how it happened, I must admit I was in shock, quite shaky. It hits you quite hard and I cried."

Mrs Walker returned to work the next day and underwent a successful hip operation.

James Karl Dean, 41, from Birkenhead, has been jailed for four years. Credit: Cumbria Police

She's since described the team as "like a family", with "wonderful" staff and customers.

“It was a good talking point for a few weeks and then you just forget about it and off you go! I’ve got a really good team of support around me.

"Everybody has been absolutely fabulous and the support was amazing.

"I can’t thank Kendal police enough. They were absolutely fantastic.”

Mrs Walker’s commendation was handed over by Cumbria’s High Sheriff, Alan McViety, during a crown court ceremony on 16 November, which she attended with her proud mum Val Walker-Neighbour, 76.

Judge Richard Archer told an assembled court gathering, which included staff and lawyers, that High Sheriff’s awards were presented to those who go "above and beyond to help bring people to justice or assist a victim of crime".

Judge Archer read from a statement provided by Judge Ian Unsworth KC, who had jailed Dean, of Birkenhead, for four years and directed that Mrs Walker should be commended.

"With a display of outstanding bravery and public spiritedness, Mrs Walker put up formidable resistance," Judge Unsworth had said.

"She showed incredible courage. Her actions ensured the robber was brought to justice."

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