Glasgow meat cleaver robber jailed for life

Edinburgh High Court. Picture: Lewis Houghton/TSPL
Edinburgh High Court. Picture: Lewis Houghton/TSPL
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A serial robber who held a meat cleaver at the neck of a pregnant sweet shop manager has been given a life sentence.

Joseph McPhee, 47, fled empty-handed from the shop after Lisa Mitchell, 32, went into “survival mode” and screamed at the top of her voice.

He jumped into a car which was stopped at a red traffic light and ordered the motorist, Sultan Alotaibi, 31, a PhD student at Glasgow University, to drive him from the scene. He leapt from the car when it had to pull up at another set of lights.

McPhee, of Norfolk Court, Glasgow, admitted assaulting Ms Mitchell with intent to rob her at her family’s business, Mrs Mitchell’s Sweetie Shop, Trongate, Glasgow, on 5 June last year, and assaulting and abducting Mr Alotaibi.

The judge, Lord Bracadale, said at the High Court in Edinburgh that McPhee had a “very bad” criminal record which included previous jail sentences of ten years, six years and five years for robberies.

“This must have been a very disturbing experience for the woman in the shop and the man in the car,” added Lord Bracadale.

He said McPhee had been assessed as posing a high risk of reoffending, and he was satisfied that an order for lifelong restriction should be imposed. It allows McPhee to be held in custody until the parole board is satisfied that he no longer poses a danger.

Lord Bracadale said McPhee would serve four years and three months before be could apply for parole.

“That, of course, does not mean you will be released then,” he told McPhee.

The court heard that McPhee had been released from his last sentence about a year before the latest offences.

Ms Mitchell, in the very early stages of pregnancy, was working alone in the shop about 4:50pm when McPhee entered. He asked her about a particular product, and she went back to stacking shelves. Then, she felt an arm round her neck, and she was unable to move away as a cold, metallic blade was put to her neck. She saw it was a meat cleaver.

“She cannot remember if anything was said or what happened next. She panicked and found herself on the floor with the accused. The blade was still against her neck and felt sharp but he no longer had his arm around her neck. She screamed as loud as she could and described feeling herself in ‘survival mode.’ The accused got up and ran out of the shop,” said the advocate-depute, David Nicolson.

McPhee got into Mr Alotaibi’s car and pushed the cleaver into his side, stating: “Drive fast. Go now or I will stick the knife in you. I’m serious.” The student was scared and thought it was “like something out of a film.” He considered trying to throw himself from the vehicle, but had to stop at red lights and McPhee fled.

Mr Nicolson said McPhee was traced through closed circuit television footage to the block of flats where he was staying, and police detained him.

“Both complainers were terrified and in fear for their lives during the incident. Mr Alotaibi has struggled to come to terms with his ordeal, having never encountered crime in his home country,” added Mr Nicolson.

The defence counsel, Euan Dow, said McPhee had spent much of his adult life in custody. He had little or no recollection of the incidents.

“It does seem he copes best in the regimented, structured environment of prison. It is in that environment he feels most comfortable,” said Mr Dow.