A MASKED thief left staff at a village post office terrified when he tried to rob them while brandishing a weapon.
Sion Armstrong covered his face with a scarf and concealed a weapon in his right hand when he went into Cwmllynfell post office on July 5 at around 3pm.
He found assistant Denise Phillips working with owner Linda Thomas and her mother Ruth Jones.
He pushed Mrs Jones and approached Mrs Phillips, telling her: "Open the till, and give me the money" before pushing her.
Kevin Jones, prosecuting at Swansea Crown Court, said: "He was carrying some sort of weapon but she had no idea what it might be."
Police later found him with a Stanley knife.
Mrs Thomas's husband, Leighton, a paramedic, returned home and heard his wife screaming his name. He tried to push Armstrong out of the shop but Armstrong, of Railway Terrace, Cwmllynfell, then butted him.
Mia Rainey, who works nearby, came to help and together with Mr Thomas tried to get him out of the shop. Another member of the public also joined in the attempt and went with Miss Rainey to intercept him. Mr Thomas said the couple were already considering selling the business but the incident had made it more likely they would.
Judge Peter Heywood said: "Small businesses in rural communities play an important part of village life and are a lifeline for the community."
Dyfed Thomas, representing Armstrong, said his client had acted "out of character" and he did not remember the incident.
Armstrong was jailed to two years and nine months in a Young Offenders Institute for attempted robbery and six months to run concurrently for possessing an offensive weapon.
The judge praised the people who confronted Armstrong.
"Their actions showed considerable foresight and courage," he said.