A DRUG addict launched a bungled armed raid on a sandwhich shop using a water pistol.

One time chef Angela Pepper had walked into the Commercial Road shop as manager Loraine Owens was tidying up as she was about to close.

Prosecutor Stuart Ellacott said Mrs Owens heard her mumble money and looking up, saw the barrel of a firearm protruding from a plastic shopping bag two feet away and pointed at her face.

Pepper told her: "Give me the money." Mrs Owens said her boss had already taken it but Pepper told her to press the 'no sale' button on the till, threatening to hurt her if she didn't.

After Mrs Owens told her she couldn't, Pepper left but was arrested in the Marlands Centre by armed police who discovered the gun to be a toy pistol.

Mrs Owens, manager of the Filling Station for 19 years, told police how her ordeal had made wary of lone customers.

"Even though the police told me it was a toy gun, it still doesn't make a difference to me as in that mment the gun was real to me."

Said to have 11 previous convictions, Pepper, 39, of Northam Road, Southampton , admitted attempted robbery and was jailed for two and a half years.

In mitigation, Jeremy Barton said Pepper had a good life as a chef with a house and car before she started taking hard drugs and the idea of doing the robbery was suggested by another drug user.

"She accepts Mrs Owens would have been scared, not knowing whether the gun was real, but as she left the shop, she apologised, walked across the road and sat there thinking 'What have I done?' before walking off to the Marlands.

"At the time she was feling particularly vulnerable, down on her luck and was easily led. She has shown genuine remorse and has taken steps to deal with her drugs problem.

"Passing sentence, Judge Peter Ralls QC described the robbery bid as "somewhat inept," and although no one had been physically injured, the psychological effects on Mrs Owens had been considerable.