AN armed robber who held up a shop with a lump hammer before leading police on a car chase through Blackburn has been jailed for six years.

Balaclava-clad Reece Fleming, 31, and an accomplice stormed The Co-op, in Whalley New Road, threatened staff and stole cash and tobacco worth over £4,500.

He then led a pursuit through some of the town’s busiest roads — running a red light, going round a major roundabout the wrong way and then escaping on foot after ditching the car.

Preston Crown Court heard Fleming was arrested after Blackburn CID used CCTV evidence to link him to the scene.

Yesterday, Judge Helen Lloyd sentenced Fleming to six years in prison.

Speaking outside court DC Jen Lennon, who led the investigation, said: “Fleming travelled into Lancashire with the intent of committing this robbery.

“Whilst it was fortunate that no-one was injured, his actions left both the shop manager and assistant very shaken and frightened. It is certainly not something they will be able to forget for a long time.

“Robbery is a very serious offence and I hope this sentence is a warning to those who think they can travel into Lancashire to commit crime. We will do everything we can to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.”

The men had swooped on the store as staff were cashing up around 9.50pm, on May 3, moments before closing time. They demanded the 28-year-old shop manager and his female assistant hand over £4,500 in cash and cigarettes.

They then fled the shop in the Brownhill area of the town, in a silver Vauxhall Astra.

Officers in a patrol car pursued the pair into the Intack area of Blackburn after the men travelled up Brownhill Drive on to Whitebirk Drive at speed.

The pair who went through a red light before travelling around the busy Whitebirk roundabout the wrong way, lost officers as they mistakenly took the wrong turning looking for the motorway.

Police caught up with them and chased the thieves on foot across gardens with the help of the police helicopter but the robbers eluded them.

During a search of the surrounding area, officers discovered the getaway car dumped in residential Monmouth Road.

A laundry bag was also found in nearby Hereford Road full of cigarettes.

So far Flemming, of Thirlmere Drive, Middleton, is the only person involved in the raid to face justice. His accomplice has never been caught.

A man who had been leaving the shop as the robbers arrived told the Lancashire Telegraph how terrifying the robbery was.

Speaking at the time, he said: “I was literally stepping out of the shop when two men pushed passed me.

“I had my young son with me so I came away from the shop and got in my car so I could call the police.

“I could see they had a lump hammer and that they were just helping themselves to money.

“I sat and watched them come out of the shop and go behind a garage nearby where they had parked up.

“The whole situation was really terrifying.”

.A spokesperson for The Co-operative Food said: “We take all incidents such as this most seriously and are pleased to see that the court has passed a suitable punishment.”