ONE of two knife-wielding robbers at a village wine store was linked to the crime after dropping his weapon while fleeing the premises.

Despite wearing a scarf partly covering his face during the raid at Redhead’s Wine Store, in Fencehouses, near Chester-le-Street, Luke Nelson was picked out in an identity parade by the owner in the aftermath of the raid.

Durham Crown Court heard that Nelson and his unknown accomplice entered the South Crescent shop with their faces covered, both carrying large kitchen knives, shortly after 8.15pm on Thursday February 16.

Nelson went to the front of the counter, while his companion went behind, both waving their knives threateningly at the shop owner, demanding money.

Ian West, prosecuting, said the alarmed shopkeeper took three £20 notes from his pocket and threw them across the counter, but told the raiders he was unable to open the till.

Nelson grabbed the £60 and told his accomplice to, “get some drink”.

The owner tried to kick out at one of the robbers who lunged at him with his knife, forcing him back into some shelving.

Mr West said both raiders then fled, but the brave shopkeeper gave chase and was only deterred when they threw one of two bottles of wine they had taken in his direction.

The knife dropped by Nelson was recovered and forensically tested, but while the results were awaited, the owner picked him out in the identity procedure.

Mr West said the test results later confirmed his dna was on the knife handle.

Nelson gave various explanations how his dna could be on the knife, and offered an alibi claiming he was at his girlfriend’s home in Hartlepool that night.

The 27-year-old electrician, of Tanfield Road, Thorney Close, Sunderland, denied robbery and possessing a bladed article in public at a previous hearing.

Although a trial date was arranged for early next year, the court was recently informed of his intention to change his pleas to both counts.

Appearing at the court, via video link from nearby Durham Prison, Nelson admitted both charges.

Jessica Slaughter, mitigating, said it was a far more serious offence than anything on Nelson’s record, at a time he was addicted to cocaine.

But, she added that while in prison, on remand, he was taking steps to address his drug habit.

Jailing him for four years and nine months, Judge Christopher Prince commented on the terrifying ordeal Nelson and his accomplice put the stoic shopkeeper through that night.