A HEROIN addict robbed a Southampton betting shop after threatening a female member of staff with a blood-tipped syringe.

Paddy Power in Poundtree Road, Southampton, was one of three businesses targeted by Gareth Ball, who was high on drugs and went armed with a needle on each occasion.

Yesterday he was jailed for eight years for robbery, attempted robbery and possessing and offensive weapon.

Describing Ball's victim's as "comparatively vulnerable" Judge Peter Henry told him: "They were all ordinary people going about their daily lives and trying to earn an honest living.

"They should not be threatened with weapons, let alone one as unpleasant as a needle, with all the associations that go with it."

Daily Echo:

Richard Martin, prosecuting, said Ball committed the first offences on April 20 after entering Betfred - also in Peartree Road.

Mr Martin said the defendant had a needle in his hand and demanded money from the till before grabbing £16 in coins from the cash tray and running off.

The following day he targeted the Golden Touch arcade in High Street and pointed a syringe at a female member of staff but fled empty-handed after she refused to hand over any cash.

The third incident took place at Paddy Power about an hour later.

Daily Echo:

Mr Martin said a woman working at the premises was approached by a man who appeared to be under the influence of drugs.

He added: "She noticed a needle with an orange cap. He removed the cap, exposing the needle, and she saw a substance she believed to be blood, It was fresh and wet."

Mr Martin said the defendant reached over the counter and removed a change tray containing almost £100.

In a victim impact statement the employee said been assaulted and spat at during her career but added: "Never has anyone pulled out a bloodied needle and threatened me.

"It would only have taken a small nick and my life would have been ruined."

Ball, whose address was given as HMP Highdown, admitted two counts of robbery, one of attempted robbery and three of possessing an offensive weapon.

Eleanor Fargin, mitigating, said Ball was a heroin user who was not taking his prescribed medication at the time of the offences because it had run out.