A student who could not pay his tuition fees carried out a terrifying £20,000 armed robbery.
Michael Hill had amassed debts running into thousands of pounds and in sheer desperation got a bus to a Co-op store, where he had previously worked, and carried out the raid armed with a knife.
Hill, 25, fled with the cash but was quickly caught when a passing motorist saw him being pursued by a security guard and pulled in front of him knocking him to the ground.
He admitted his guilt to police and explained he had been at Salford University but “was kicked off the course due to issues about him not paying his fees.”
He told officers: “It was the biggest mistake of my life.”
A loan he had applied for did not materialise and he had been working part time but due to lack of work that job fell through.
He told how he was then thrown out of his student accommodation because he could not pay his rent and he amassed considerable debts with his bank and family and friends, said Andrew Downie, prosecuting.
He slept at friends’ addresses before ending up sleeping rough in Manchester.
“I had hit rock bottom and for the last couple of days had been contemplating committing a robbery to gain cash to solve my debt problems,” he told Liverpool Crown Court.
Hill added: “I could not go back to family and friends as I would seem like a leech and a failure.”
The court heard that on August 26 after wandering around Manchester with his rucksack containing his few belongings and £6 cash, he got a bus to Astley and carried out the raid.
Just after 10pm Hill, who had his face covered by a scarf, produced a knife, which he had had since working at a DIY store, and demanded staff open the safe.
He pushed a security guard over and grabbed hold of the store manager and claimed there was a bomb in a bag on the garage forecourt outside.
After the cash was put into a bag he ran off, pursued by the security guard, and dropped some of the notes before a motorist saw him run into a nearby industrial estate and blocked his path.
Jailing Hill, of Leigh Road, Atherton, for three years Judge John Phipps said that carrying out the robbery had been “no way of dealing with debt problems,” but he was prepared to accept he was remorseful.
William Swalwell, defending, said that Hill, who admitted robbery, has an impeccable record and is being supported by family and friends. A large number of testimonials spoke about his honesty and how out of character his behaviour had been.
He had received a letter threatening legal action about the unpaid university fees and had been left feeling desperate.