|Masked raiders threatened a postmaster and his wife with a baseball bat and then stole £23,561, a court heard.
Lincoln man Mark Palmer (33) is on trial for allegedly being part of a gang that robbed a post office in Fiskerton, near Lincoln, in July last year.
Palmer and two accomplices threatened sub-postmaster Lester Tyler and his partner Lynne Davison while their two young children slept upstairs, Nottingham Crown Court heard yesterday.
Jurors were told that the gang then demanded the keys to the safe and stole the cash from inside, together with almost £1,000 of shop takings and Mr Tyler’s own money.
They are also alleged to have stolen Mr Tyler’s wallet and Ms Davison’s mobile phone and handbag while Mr Tyler was pinned to the floor with a baseball bat.
Mr Tyler has lived at Fiskerton Post Office with his partner and children Adam (12) and Amy (10) since 2003.
“It was a very frightening experience. I was lying on the floor with the baseball bat pressed against the back of my neck,” he told the court.
“They started demanding that Lynne tell them how to open the safe. I became extremely worried because Lynne doesn’t work in the post office so she doesn’t know how the safe works but I wasn’t sure if they would believe that.
“Fortunately, I managed to tell them it was me they needed to speak to and I told them where they could get the keys.”
The gang wore boiler suits and balaclavas but Ms Davison noticed that one of them spoke with a South African accent when he demanded the keys to the safe. She said the gang then drove away in Ms Davison’s Renault Megane.
Ms Davison said: “After they left I ran upstairs to check on the children, who had slept through the whole raid. I then called the police on my daughter’s mobile phone, as the gang had stolen mine and Lester’s and had disabled the house phone.”
Palmer is accused of being the third member of the gang, who waited outside while the other two threatened Mr Tyler and Ms Davison and stole the money. He allegedly came into the Post Office to tell the others that the alarms had been set off.
David Palmer, prosecuting, told the court that the accused’s car, a K-registration Ford Escort, had been left at the scene.
Mr Palmer also said that a police officer happened to remember stopping the car the previous day.
When Palmer was arrested, police found a bag containing £1,170 and Ms Davison’s mobile phone in the boot of the car he was travelling in, said Mr Palmer.
Palmer of Charlesworth Street, Lincoln, has pleaded not guilty to aggravated burglary and taking and driving away a vehicle without the owner’s consent.
The jury heard that Palmer, a man named Alistair Rigett and a man with a South African accent had visited a friend, Ian Wilson, the night before the raid.
Mr Wilson was called as a prosecution witness. He alleged that the trio had asked to borrow a baseball bat, as well as masking tape, black paint and a sledgehammer.
He said that when he heard that three men had burgled Fiskerton Post Office using a baseball bat he became worried and called police.
He had once been friendly with Palmer and Rigett, he said, but had lately fallen out with Rigett.
“I did not ask what they wanted the baseball bat for, and I didn’t care,” he said. “They woke me up at 11.20pm shouting at my window. I was worried the neighbours would complain so I just handed over the bat to get them to go away.”
Mr Wilson admitted that he had served prison terms for theft but said he was appalled that anybody would use a baseball bat to commit a crime in a home with two young children. He denied suggestions by defence barrister Michael Cranmer-Brown that he was also involved in the crime.
The trial continues.