Robber jailed after taking hostage in post office raid

Taffyn Betnay

Taffyn Betnay

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Senior reporter. Call me on (01865) 425373

A ROBBER who called himself “the Robin Hood of Oxford” has been jailed after he took a woman hostage during a raid on a post office.

Taffyn Betnay, 23, of Benouville Close in Cowley was yesterday handed a four-year prison sentence for stealing £17,000 during an armed robbery on Tuesday, May 6.

Prosecutor Cathy Olliver said he and an accomplice who has not been caught targeted the post office in Woodstock Road, Oxford, at about 1pm when it was full of customers. She said Betnay wore a red scarf over his face and headed to the back of the shop, while the other man used an extendable baton to threaten staff and stop anyone else from entering.

Miss Olliver said Betnay grabbed Oxford University researcher Dr Teresa Harms from behind as she was waiting in the queue and gripped her neck tightly until the counter staff handed over cash.

The barrister said: “She started to cry, she was petrified.

“She didn’t know if he was going to shoot her or stab her or hurt her.”

Miss Olliver told Judge Mary Jane Mowat that the cashiers tried to give Betnay money and empty packages as fast as they could so he would let go of his victim.

She added that the two men escaped on bicycles with pounds, euros and US dollars but were knocked off and pursued on foot by porters from the nearby Somerville College.

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Betnay has 16 previous convictions for 40 offences – including shoplifting, criminal damage and perverting the course of justice – and previously called himself the city’s “Robin Hood.”

In 2011 he was jailed for 45 weeks for stealing numberplates from around the city, before attatching them to his girlfriend’s hire car while she was at work and stealing more than £1,213 of fuel from petrol stations. Sentencing him at Oxford Crown Court Judge Mowat said he subjected Dr Harms to a “terrifying experience” that left her very distressed.

She heard mitigation that Betnay had lost his job at the Cowley BMW plant, has two young children and had been driven to commit the crime out of desperation.

But Judge Mowat told him: “You grabbed an unsuspecting customer and held her as a hostage in effect.

“That lady was absolutely terrified – it must have been a terrifying experience for all the customers in the shop.

“And there is absolutely no excuse for committing an offence of this kind, financial difficulties or not.”

She sentenced him to four years in prison and told him to pay a £120 victims’ surcharge.

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