Cocaine-addicted Post Office raider jailed

Police at Burntisland Post Office following the robbery. Pic: Steven Brown
Police at Burntisland Post Office following the robbery. Pic: Steven Brown

A drug addict who staged four terrifying raids on post offices in four days has been jailed for seven and a half years.

Thomas McGarva (39), armed with a knife, stole £6000 from the HIgh Street post office in Burntisland in January.

Edinburgh High Court heard he turned up at the premises and told employee Maria Nawa (36) that he was was there to fix the till “for health and safety reasons”.

She said she would have to speak to head office and went to pick up the phone, but McGarva opened tills and grabbed money.

He ordered her to open a safe and warned: “Don’t make a noise.”

The victim, who could see he was armed, pleaded with him not to take the money as it was not hers, but he responded: “Tough luck”.

McGarva targeted lone woman employees in three of the premises where he made off with cash but at the fourth, three men working at the post office fought back and he fled empty-handed.

Today (Tuesday), a judge told McGarva: “You pled guilty to four charges of assault and robbery or attempted robbery of four post office premises within a period of four days in January this year.”

Lady Scott told him it had been a planned course of conduct and added: “You went armed with and used weapons, including a knife and hammer and you caused significant psychological harm.”

The judge said she would have jailed McGarva, who was previously imprisoned for robbery, for 10 years but for his guilty pleas.

Unemployed McGarva first struck on January 6 at a post office in Glenboig, Lanarkshire, when he attacked Francine Wladysiuk (56) and robbed her of almost £1800 and stamps.

He ran in wearing a high vis jacket and was waving an object that looked like a gun wrapped in plastic.

She managed to open the till but also pressed the panic button at the same time before he snatched cash and fled, leaving the victim shaking and feeling sick.

McGarva carried out his next raid in Clarkston, Glasgow, the following day.

Three men, Rhowan Bagri (26) Sukhchen Singh Atwal (66) and Gulab Singh (38) were working in the Premier Express when McGarva came in and demanded money.

Mr Bagri blocked him getting behind the counter and McGarva pulled out an item looking like a gun and struck him with it.

While one of his colleagues held a door Mr Bagri got a hammer.

When the raider saw the hammer he said: “That’s it, you’re getting it.” He pulled out a large knife and ran out the door and repeatedly tried to strike Mr Bagri and a fellow worker with the weapon.

Two days later McGarva carried out a further two robberies at post offices in Fife. First in Burntisland and a short time later in Kincardine.

Rebecca Erskine was working alone in the premises and McGarva chatted to her until customers left, before jumping on the counter.

He was armed with a claw hammer and swung it at her face. The victim put her hand in front of her face and grabbed the weapon. McGarva fell and she hit him with the hammer.

McGarva became angry and went round the counter, grabbed her by the hair and pushed her into shelving. During a struggle she managed to activate an alarm.

McGarva was detained by police three days later. Police recovered £11.80 and some stamps.

Defence solicitor advocate Stephen Drymen said that McGarva had a substantial addiction to illegal drugs, particularly cocaine, over many years.

“He accepts these were serious offences committed against innocent members of the public,” he said.