‘It’s ruined my life’ – Diabetic who collapsed after jailed Stevenage robber threatened to stab him speaks out

Ricky Briars from Stevenage has been sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for stealing

Ricky Briars from Stevenage has been sentenced to four years and nine months in prison for stealing from vulnerable people in the town. - Credit: Archant

A diabetic who collapsed after fearing for his life at the hands of a robber has bravely spoken about the ordeal after the Stevenage man responsible was put behind bars.

Sean Newport was one of three people targeted by Ricky Briars over a two-day period in August where he committed robbery, theft and burglary.

The 25-year-old had been to get some shopping at the McColl’s convenience store at St Nicholas shops in Stevenage’s Canterbury Way when he was approached by Briars on the afternoon of August 21.

Sean – who lives nearby – was asked by Briars if he had change for the bus and, as he got out his wallet, had it snatched off him by the 32-year-old.

Briars then threatened Sean and said that if he didn’t go with him to a cash machine at the shops and give him his PIN for his debit card that he would stab him.

“I’m a kind-hearted person – if someone asked me for 20p I would give it to them and that is what happened,” said Sean, who has Type 1 diabetes and was 24 at the time of the robbery.

“When he snatched my wallet he said that if I didn’t give him my PIN he was going to harm me, or words to that effect. I feared for my life.

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“He took me to the shops and gave him my PIN – but there wasn’t any money in my account.

“I didn’t tell him that I lived nearby and said I was going to visit my mum in Chells, so he said he was going to walk me there.

“I told him I was diabetic and that I didn’t feel well, and that’s when I collapsed in the car park. He tried to pour Lucozade down my throat to get my blood sugar up but that didn’t work, and then a lady got out of her car so he took my shopping bags and ran.

“I was able to phone the police from McColl’s – the manager was really nice and one of a number of people who helped. Despite everything, I know there is a good community spirit around here.”

Sean wasn’t the only one who was targeted by Briars, who approached a man aged in his late 80s outside sheltered accommodation in Highfield Court the following afternoon.

While the man was attempting to open the front door, Briars removed the victim’s wallet which was in his back pocket and contained £80 in cash.

A few minutes later, after emptying the contents of the victim’s wallet, Briars then knocked on a window of another property in the sheltered accommodation – claiming he had found a man’s wallet.

The elderly man inside agreed to let him in and, while looking at the wallet, Briars took £220 in cash from a work surface and made off.

“There’s people out there that are vulnerable that don’t realise this is going on, that’s why I wanted to speak out,” said Sean, who has an eight-year-old sister and a brother aged 14.

“This has scared me and my whole family beyond belief – it’s ruined my life. It’s shook my mum up so much, she doesn’t want anyone to do the short walk from my flat to her house.”

Last week Briars, whose address was given in court as Barleycroft, was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison after admitting the three crimes at a previous hearing at Cambridge Crown Court.

Sean’s mum Sarah, 42, said: “I thought he would get a longer sentence as he’s clearly preying on people who are vulnerable and because he thinks he can get away with it. When the lady got out the car he did a runner, so he was clearly trying to make a quick buck. If the woman hadn’t have stopped, I could’ve lost my son.

“I am pleased the police caught him so quickly and they did a good job, I just think he should have got longer as he could be out in no time.

“My son has suffered with depression and he’s become a bit of a hermit – he’s worried about leaving his home to walk his dog now. But we will get through this as we’re a tight-nit family and always have been.”