Robber killed in bookie raid 'had fake gun'

Police inquiry launched into death of man in gas mask who died as customers thwarted raid

A masked gunman who collapsed and died after being disarmed and pinned down by customers in a betting shop, was last night named as 50-year-old Alan Levers.

Police have said the man was using what "appears to be an imitation pistol" when he walked into a branch of Ladbrokes in Plymouth, Devon, on Friday night wearing a gas mask.

Customers were said to have immediately disarmed and restrained Levers, who is said to be from the Honicknowle area of the city, as others raised the alarm.

Police arrested the apparently armed robber, who was already unconscious, upon arrival, but he was declared dead a short time later. The police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), has been asked to investigate the incident.

Devon and Cornwall Police said an initial investigation suggested the firearm was an imitation. "The firearm has been initially examined by a police firearms officer and it appears to be an imitation pistol, though this still needs to be verified. I would like to add, however, that there would have been no way of knowing this at the time of the incident. The actions taken by members of the public in the shop were brave and showed a disregard for their own safety," Chief Superintendent Andy Bickley said.

Police said an ambulance was called soon after police arrived. "It quickly became clear the man was unresponsive and an ambulance was immediately requested by police who carried out CPR until they arrived. A few minutes later three paramedics arrived at the scene and continued to carry out further CPR. Around 20 minutes later the man was declared dead at the scene by the paramedics. This incident has been voluntarily referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission," a police spokesman said.

Eyewitness David Walker, 55, from West Park, Plymouth, described how he thought a fight had broken out in the shop. "When I went in there, they were scuffling on the floor, I just thought it was just a fight or something. There were the two men, customers I think, on top of him, and the bloke on the floor. I didn't see their faces, as they were holding the guy down at the back of the shop. I couldn't see any mask and there wasn't any physical movement, they were just holding him."

Ivor Green, 67, also from West Park, said he was not surprised that customers had tried to defend the staff: "The staff become your friends, it's a little family, and it's no different to a member of your family being threatened." He added: "He shouldn't have been doing that in the first place." The Ladbrokes branch remained closed yesterday with two uniformed police officers on duty outside.

Police said that armed robbery with a firearm in Plymouth is extremely rare, with only one recorded gun-point robbery at a business premises in the past 12 months.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower