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Armed robber was pursued by police after Wick petrol station hold-up

By Court Reporter

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AN armed robber was pursued by police after he held up a petrol station shop in Wick.

The high-speed chase ended 51 miles south when a police stinger device burst the tyres of John Cowie’s BMW, forcing it to a halt.

The 23-year-old was arrested and admitted charges of assault and robbery and dangerous driving, on indictment, at Wick Sheriff Court today.

Cowie, of Calder Crescent, Embo, will be sentenced next month.

The hold-up took place at the Francis Street filling station shortly before 7pm on May 2.

The court heard that Cowie, wearing an orange boiler suit, entered the shop and asked for a packet of cigarettes. The shop assistant, Sharon Young, who was alone on the premises, turned round to get it and when she turned back she saw that he was holding a knife close to his chest.

She described it as being “longer than a penknife but not looking like a kitchen knife”.

David Barclay, prosecuting, said that the accused demanded money, saying: “I want the notes out of the till – just the notes."

Mr Barclay went on: "Ms Young told an apologetic Cowie that she would give him the money but not to hurt her.”

She handed him a selection of notes in a variety of denominations totalling £245. The accused left the shop with them and the cigarettes and drove off in the car which belonged to his mother, who, it was stressed, had no knowledge of her son’s crimes.

Police were alerted and parked at the southern end of Brora to intercept Cowie.

He appeared at an excessive speed soon afterwards and officers set off in pursuit at speeds of up to 110 mph.

Mr Barclay said: “The accused’s car was seen to straddle the centre-line markings, at one stage crossing entirely onto the opposing carriageway and at another point carrying out a dangerous overtake.

"At Golspie, fortunately deserted due to the pandemic lockdown, Cowie entered the village at 50 mph [the limit there is 30 mph]. Throughout the journey, the police car’s sirens and lights were in operation but the accused paid no heed.”

However, the runaway was still within the village when the stinger brought him to a halt.

The fiscal added that the cash and cigarettes were recovered by the police along with the knife and Cowie was arrested.

Police footage of the chase could not be played in court because of a technical problem.

Sheriff Andrew Berry was told that although the accused had been a first offender at the time of the robbery he had subsequently breached his bail and a curfew order in connection with a separate, unrelated allegation.

Cowie, who appeared via video link, was remanded in custody until October 5 when the sheriff will consider a background report and hear from defence solicitor Fiona MacDonald.

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