Armed intruder just wanted beer

A man who smashed his way into an Oamaru supermarket, terrifying the night staff with a loaded air rifle because he was desperate for alcohol, has been jailed for three years.

Terence Eric Webb, 63, a recovering alcoholic, was in considerable pain and having major difficulties with his pain medication when he "fell by the wayside", Judge Kevin Phillips said at sentencing in the Dunedin District Court yesterday.

Webb had a sawn-off air rifle, a hammer and a fishing knife with him when he went to the Wansbeck St supermarket about 3.45am on January 22.

He used the hammer to smash his way in and confronted two staff with the loaded gun, which he had cut down the previous night while drinking at home. When a third staff member arrived, Webb continued pointing the weapon at the three victims to keep them together near the beer fridge while he drank some beer. He was in an agitated and drunken state and all three victims were "scared witless", believing they were going to be shot, the judge said.

The staff members discussed Webb's problems with him for about 40 minutes, trying to keep him calm. A fourth staff member arrived and was able to alert police, who eventually arrested the defendant after a 90 minute negotiation.

Crown counsel Richard Smith said the prison term for Webb should start at about four years. Although it had not been a case where the defendant was disguised, he had detained the victims for some time and subjected them to quite a degree of fear, given he had a firearm. And there was then a "stand off" with the police.

Defence counsel Campbell Savage said the defendant was "racked with remorse" and was "at a loss" to explain why he had armed himself. Apart from the hammer which he used to get himself into the supermarket, Webb just wanted people to stay away. He just wanted to get in to drink some beer.

He was self-medicating and at his wits end.

"He just wanted the pain to go away," Mr Savage said.

The summary of facts said Webb cut the barrel off the air rifle while drinking at home earlier in the night, then shot himself twice in the head in an attempt to kill himself.

Judge Phillips said that, as a result of Webb's actions, the three staff members no longer felt safe and were nervous and apprehensive about going to work. The nature of the detention was such that one victim believed he would be killed if he tried to escape.

Webb was assessed at medium risk of re-offending and the probation officer who wrote the pre-sentence report felt he did not appear to appreciate the problems he had caused the victims.

There was no argument the staff had been detained, the judge said. Webb had taken the gun with him so nobody could stop him doing what he was going to do. And he was pointing the gun at the victims and waving it around while in an intoxicated, edgy and agitated state.

The victims were intimidated by the gun and the knife and were all "entirely vulnerable".

Webb, who earlier admitted charges of aggravated burglary, presenting a firearm, carrying an offensive weapon (a knife) and using a firearm to resist arrest was given concurrent prison sentences of three years (aggravated burglary), six months (using a firearm to resist arrest and carrying an offensive weapon) and two months (three charges of presenting a firearm).

Judge Phillips also gave him a warning under the "three strikes" legislation and ordered destruction of the air rifle, the knife and the hammer.