A DRUNKEN raider tried to hold up a Co-op store by using a piece of vacuum cleaner hose as a fake weapon.

Stuart Black stuffed the hose into a tote bag and covered it in a tea towel in the hope that it would be mistaken for a gun or a hammer. He went up to the counter and demanded the contents of the till.

The cashier at the Paignton branch feared for his life but was able to radio for help from a colleague in a back office, causing Black to flee empty handed.

He was so desperate for alcohol that he went back to the same shop an hour later and shoplifted four cans of cider before the police were alerted and he was arrested.

Black was spared an immediate jail sentence after a judge at Exeter Crown Court was read a letter of apology which he wrote in his cell after learning that the road had left the cashier with severe psychological trauma.

He wrote: 'Words cannot express how bad I feel.

'Please be aware the weapon was a piece of plastic tubing from a vacuum cleaner. I am in no way a violent man and have never done anything as stupid or careless as this before.

'I would like to get back to my trade as a bespoke tailor so I can pay compensation.'

A probation report revealed that Black had worked for an elite outfitter in London’s prestigious Savile Row until succumbing to a drug addiction which left him incapable of working and living on disability benefits.

Black, aged 60, of Winner Hill Road, Paignton, admitted attempted robbery and was jailed for two years, suspended for two years and ordered to do six months drug rehabilitation by Judge David Evans.

He told him: 'I have no doubt that what you wanted money for was alcohol.

'That is reinforced by the fact that you went back to the shop to steal alcohol. That is an unusual feature of this offence.'

Miss Victoria Bastock, prosecuting, said Black went into the shop in Winner Street at 8.45pm on August 14 last year and ascertained that the manager was the only person on duty before approaching the counter when other customers had moved away.

He placed a tote back on the counter with a cylindrical object pointing out of it and said: 'I have a weapon. I want you to empty the check-out or I will come around the counter.'

The manager thought the weapon was a hammer. He froze initially and then radioed to a workmate to call the police, causing Black to leave.

He wrote a victim statement saying he thought he was going to die and needed to take six weeks off work and five sessions of counselling at a total cost of more than £4,000. He has had to relocate to a different store.

Mr Malcolm Salloway, defending, said Black has spent six weeks in custody awaiting sentence and had the chance to reassess his life.

He is now determined to overcome a long term drug addiction and return to his former profession as a tailor.