A TEENAGER tried to rob a busy high street bank at knifepoint just half an hour after deciding against targeting another.
Kai Jennings was convinced drug dealers were after him due to unpaid debt, so the 19-year-old took matters into his own hands and attempted to rob Santander, on Shirley High Street, on December 5.
The former agency worker, wearing a balaclava he had bought earlier that day, shoved a bag in front of a cashier and demanded she put notes inside it.
However, Jennings was unable to make off with any money as the quick-thinking teller pressed a security device within the bank to keep her, and the money, safe.
Southampton Crown Court heard that Jennings, who had no previous convictions, believed his dealers wanted to kill him and hurt him and his girlfriend.
James Kellam, prosecuting, told the court that before the attempted robbery, Jennings visited Sports Direct and Primark to buy “a disguise”, including buying a a balaclava, a rucksack and a Lonsdale jacket.
He said: “By the afternoon, he went to Shirley High Street and walked into Nationwide wearing the balaclava.
“A member of staff saw him walk in and it must have been obvious to them what he was going to do.
“He admits thinking about robbing the place but decided not to do it so he took off his balaclava.”
Mr Kellam added: “Half an hour later he went into the branch of Santander. There a teller was serving a customer who noticed that a rucksack had been put in front of her.
“She was told by the defendant, who had a knife pointed at her, to fill up the bag with big notes first of all and that if she didn’t people were going to get hurt.”
The court heard that the teller then pressed an emergency button which deployed the security screens before Jennings left the bank.
In a witness statement provided to the court, the teller said she was more worried for her customers than herself.
Following the incident, CCTV footage of Jennings was released to the public on December 8.
A day later Jennings handed himself in and confessed to attempted robbery and having a bladed article in public.
Mitigating, Nicholas Robinson told the court that Jennings had been unable to pay off debts to his dealer, which led to him trying to rob the bank.
He said: “Before the incident Jennings did not feel safe so stayed at a hotel [the Days Inn, in Rownhams Services].
“He did not think he had a choice. He felt the debt was due and he only had a day to pay or else.
“He went into the first bank and couldn’t do it.”
Mr Robinson added: “He regrets this and feels for his family, the cashier and the customers who this affected.”
Jennings, of Sheldrake Gardens, Lordswood, Southampton, was sentenced to 32 months in a young offenders’ institute.