AN ex-care home worker who carried out a £30,000 string of terrifying knifepoint raids at travel agencies after he was sacked has been jailed for eight years.

Jason Thompson, 42, struck six times at small premises in Accrington and West Yorkshire over eight months.

He forced young female staff into back offices, demanding they open the safes.

Thompson, who had never been in trouble before and did not wear a disguise, was arrested after police traced his getaway car, his old Ford Mondeo which had been caught on CCTV.

Burnley Crown Court heard how Thompson, who used a vegetable peeler to threaten his victims, claimed he was in debt to loan sharks and was under pressure to pay up.

He had broken down and sobbed when questioned by police, saying he had got depressed and was desperate for cash.

The defendant, of Park Road, Barnoldswick, had admitted six counts of robbery and six of having a bladed article.

Prosecutor Emma Kehoe said the robberies took place between July 2013 and February this year.

The first was at Althams Travel Services, Blackburn Road, Accrington, last July. Thompson threatened four staff members and made off with £8,032.

On August 16, the defendant targeted Althams, Church Street, Littleborough, where two young women were working and he escaped with £7, 500.

Mrs Kehoe said last October 2, Thompson went into Thomson travel agents, Kirkgate, Otley, and got away with £800 in Australian dollars, £5,000 in Czech currency, Tunisian money and some euros. Last November 14, he went into Co-op Travel in Horsforth, Leeds and one female worker was forced into a toilet cubicle while another was told to open the safe. He stole £4,500 in cash and travellers cheques.

On January 8, Thompson went to Althams in Pudsey and stole £4,000. The prosecutor said the final offence was at Thomson travel agents, Accrington, on February 18. The defendant took £3,800 from the till.

Mrs Kehoe said: “He told officers he would not have hurt any of the females if they had challenged him.”

Richard Prew, defending, said Thompson had been dismissed from his job at a care home. He said: “Rather than confessing all to his partner and family, he chose a rather more darker path.

“He now fully accepts his actions would have frightened the staff to death. He wishes to apologise profusely.”

Sentencing, Judge Beverley Lunt told him: “It was obviously very traumatic for each of these victims.”