‘I really thought he was going to kill me’ - shop raid victim speaks of her ordeal

Sarah Richards. Ref mhh 3639-39-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife

Sarah Richards. Ref mhh 3639-39-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

A year-and-a-half on from the terrifying incident, Sarah Richards has talked exclusively to the Herald about the incident which changed her life forever.

A Honiton woman who was bound and gagged in a £400,000 robbery at an antiques shop has reflected on the terrifying incident a-year-and-a-half on.

Sarah Richards, 60, spoke to the Herald from her Honiton home about the ordeal that, despite lasting roughly 11 minutes, would impact her for the rest of her life.

The mother-of-one, who has lived in the town for most of her life, was opening up Banwell Antiques in March 2014 when robber Edward O’Hare ambushed her, holding his hands over her face and tying her up. The 46-year-old made off with £400,000 of antique jewellery, but was arrested following a television appeal and jailed for six years.

Now, Mrs Richards has shared the experience which she says has ruined her life.

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She said: “Before I had even shut the inner door, this man just burst in, held me really tightly around my mouth, dragged me around, tied my hands with cable tie behind my back, demanding the keys from the safe. I told him where they were because I wasn’t going to fight with him.”

O’Hare made Mrs Richards kneel down before he completely cleaned out the safe.

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“He was shouting and swearing the entire time. He then took my handbag, put that into his big holdall he had got, pushed me through into a back room, locked me in and left,” Mrs Richards said.

“That whole event took about, I think, 11 minutes, but it seemed like 11 hours.”

Mrs Richards sat in silence for a short time to make sure O’Hare had left the shop for good.

Then she managed to break the cable ties binding her hands together before hopping across the shop to call the police, her employer and husband.

“I sat very quiet, I suspect for only seconds, because I wanted to make absolutely sure that he had gone,” she said. “Once I was pretty certain he was gone, I was just thinking ‘I have got to get my hands free’.

“How I broke that cable tie I will never know. The police called an ambulance but they didn’t want anybody to touch me because of DNA. He tied my legs together with tape and he cut the tape with his teeth so fortunately I jumped across the room and didn’t touch the tape.”

Mrs Richards said she feared for her life throughout the incident - fainting repeatedly when police tried to break into the shop as she feared it was O’Hare making a return.

“As it started, I really did think he was going to kill me,” she said.

“That was my initial thought. As he was there, I can remember saying to him ‘Stop shouting and I will help you’.

“I thought ‘I have got to go with him because if I try and fight him he is going to win’. And I think once he knew that I was going to let him have the things, it was just really a case of waiting for it all to be over.”

Mrs Richards added: “He shouted all the time, he was swearing and kept saying ‘Don’t look at my face’.

“The biggest thing he said was ‘You don’t know how much I need this stuff. I’m dead’.

“The police said that they felt that meant it was some connection with drugs because if he owed money to some drug person, they could have probably been after him.”

Mrs Richards said she felt confident that O’Hare would be caught, because the police seemed confident.

She added: “We had extremely good CCTV so that was excellent.

“I think once it had happened it was just the relief that he had gone away. It was a very strange feeling.”

Mrs Richards says she has lost her confidence because of the incident, and now suffers from Addison’s disease – a rare condition which affects the adrenal glands.

Although the illness has not been proved as a direct result of the incident, Mrs Richards says that, coupled with her shattered confidence, it has changed her as a person.

Yet she is thankful to everyone who supported her following her ordeal, adding: “My husband has been incredibly supportive but there’s nothing worse than seeing somebody close to you going through something as awful as that.

“So it has been quite a hard time. You go to work and you think at my sort of age, doing that job for 25 years in the same shop.

“When you really really enjoy your job like I did, you assume you will be able to stay in that job until you retire. So financially it has made a huge difference.

“I feel very lucky that it wasn’t worse than it was because he didn’t have a weapon, he wasn’t masked or anything like that so it could have been a lot worse. He could have hurt me more than he did.

“I feel lucky in that I have had ever such a lot of support from family and friends.

“When it happened you could not see across my front room for cards and flowers - it was just amazing.

“Even the police were actually delivering the flowers from the shop to my house. It was wonderful.”

Reflecting on the incident, Mrs Richards said she was thought she was quite calm throughout.

She said: “You keep thinking afterwards what could have happened. Because he took my handbag, he had my house keys so we immediately changed the locks, but was still sure in my mind that he was going to come back.

“To this day, if my husband comes in during the day he whistles as he comes in the door so that I know it’s him. It leaves you frightened I suppose.

“The chap wore a flat cap and I hate seeing anybody now in a flat cap because it just reminds me of the experience.”

She has also expressed her thanks to Detective Constable Paul Perryman and Vicky Grimwood of Devon and Cornwall Police, adding: “They have been really, really good on this. They were a great help, they kept me informed all along with what’s happening. When they first caught him, they let me know. I think the police get quite a bad press really, but over this, I must say they have been excellent.”

Mrs Richards says by sharing her story, she hopes to move on, adding: “I feel this has to be the end of it because otherwise it will prey on my mind forever.”

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