ARMED robbers who donned boiler suits and balaclavas before unleashing horror during a 'terrifying' bank raid have been locked up for more than 17 years.

Members of the 'gang' rushed into Headington's Lloyds Bank before brandishing a gas gun in front of petrified staff and customers as they demanded cash.

Robbers Tyron Smith, Ben Matthews, and an Oxford teenager, who cannot be named because of his age, looked on as Oxford Crown Court heard how they left their victims fearing for their safety.

Customer Paul Chapman was today given £1,000 from public funds after valiantly stopping a woman and her child from being caught up in the torment by pushing her away before trying to hunt down the robbers as they fled the scene with more than £4,000.

Commending the have-a-go-hero, who was in the bank with his six-year-old son, Judge Peter Ross said: "He prevented [them] from being exposed to this terrifying situation in the bank and he would have done so at some risk to himself. When the robbers fled from the bank, he pursued them with a great deal of determination and diligence."

Passer-by Clifton Webb, who has since died, also chased the robbers as they escaped from the bank and £500 was awarded to his estate.

Matthews armed himself with the imitation firearm, obtained by the teenager, before hurrying into the London Road branch with the then 16-year-old while Smith waited in a car outside.

In CCTV show to Oxford Crown Court, customers and staff froze in terror as the teenager pooled together cash from the bank and Matthews waved the gun on January 23 last year.

The pair then fled with the cash, jumping into a car Smith had rented the week before, prosecutor Richard Padley said.

Boiler suits, along with a mobile phone with a text message and image of the gas gun, and Facebook messages about the weapon, were uncovered when officers searched the teenager's Oxford home.

An electronic safe containing £10,000-worth of crack cocaine and heroin, which could have been purchased for £4,000, along with paraphernalia, was also discovered at Smith's former home in London Road, Headington.

Alistair Grainger, defending Smith, said the former footballer at Oxford City Football Club fell into the drug-dealing world after an altercation left him banned from the club.

The 27-year-old had 'no choice' but to drive criminals around to pay off a £4,000 debt he owed drug dealers, and was told to guard the safe by crooks all dubbed 'Hugh'.

Smith was 'coerced' by Hugh to drive to Headington and pick up his co-defendants before the robbery, fearing his family would be harmed if he refused, the barrister said.

William Maley, defending 30-year-old Matthews, said the robbery was 'rather unsophisticated' and the defendant wanted to break free from his drug habit which forced him into crime.

Claire Wade, defending the teenager, said the autistic defendant began using cannabis at 13 after being ostracised by his peers at school, meeting Matthews through his drug-taking.

The 'vulnerable' teenager, now 17, has been 'exploited' by adults he has become involved with but accepts responsibility for his offending, she added.

The trio admitted robbery, while Smith also admitted possessing heroin, a class A drug, and possessing cocaine, a class A drug, with intent to supply.

Smith, of no fixed abode, was jailed for seven-and-a-half years, Matthews, of Valentia Road, Oxford, was jailed for six years and nine months, and the teenager was sentenced to three years' detention.