Post office raid ended in 'vicious attack'

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The Independent Online
A police officer, armed only with a truncheon, was stabbed to death in a "ferocious" attack by a man he tried to arrest after an attempted robbery on a sub post office, the Old Bailey heard yesterday.

Sergeant Derek Robertson, married with children, suffered six knife wounds to the neck and body - four of which were serious enough to have been the sole cause of his death - as he struggled with Robert Eades, the leader of a three-man gang who had takenthe Postmaster hostage, said John Bevan, the prosecuting counsel. Mr. Bevan said the wounds were inflicted by a Black Widow dagger which was later found discarded nearby. A Black Widow sheath was found strapped to Eade's leg when he was later captured.

The court heard a fellow officer made desperate attempts to save the life of Mr. Robertson in the garden behind the Post Office in New Addington, Surrey after Eades ran off. Mr. Bevan said the officer believed Sergeant Robertson had died and had been resuscitated. The air ambulance was called to the scene and paramedics opened Sgt Robertson's chest where he lay in a vain attempt to re-start his heart. The officer, who had 20 years' service, was pronounced dead in hospital an hour later.

While Sergeant's Robertson's wife listened only feet from the dock, Mr. Bevan described how the police officer's death came after Eades, 32, and Terry Snelling, 32, and his brother Christopher, 39, all from New Addington, broke into the flat above the sub-post office as part of a carefully-planned operation to steal £29,000. The men waited overnight in the upstairs room until Postmaster Albert Britton, 59, arrived at work at eight a.m. the next morning.

When Mr. Britton told them that the safe had a time lock and could not be opened until 8.55 a.m., they retired to the back room with their hostage to wait. Mr. Bevan said the turning point came minutes later when Mr. Britton's wife made a "harmless" callto her husband.

During a conversation which lasted less than a minute, Mr. Britton's wife, concerned by his tone, asked if she should call the police. He replied: "Probably."

While the robbers debated whether Mr. Britton had given his wife a coded warning, Mrs. Britton was dialling 999. Sergeant Robertson was one of two officers initially sent to the scene.

Mr. Bevan said that while checking the back of the post office Sgt Robertson was confronted by Eades - holding a knife at Mr. Britton's throat - and the Snelling brothers trying to escape.

Yesterday Mr. Britton described the "terrifying" ordeal. He said that Eades had run at Sgt Robertson after abandoning him as a hostage.

All three men have admitted conspiracy to rob and false imprisonment, but have pleaded not guilty to murdering Sgt Robertson. The case continues day.

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