Ladbrokes denies lack of security for workers after masked gun raid
CONCERNS have been raised over security in bookies following Friday's armed robbery attempt in which the gunman died.
One local Ladbrokes employee – who asked to remain anonymous – spoke of safety fears while working alone in the evenings.
Concerns were raised after the dramatic death of masked gunman Alan Levers during a botched robbery bid in West Park on Friday evening.
The employee claimed that calls for so-called "bandit screens", which provide protection for those behind the counter, had been rejected by senior management.
But Ladbrokes, which is providing counselling to the sole employee who was working during Friday's terrifying incident, said the company was "not aware of any requests for such screens" in its eight Plymouth shops.
The anonymous worker said: "At present no Ladbrokes shops in Plymouth have bandit screens.
"You only have to walk into any of the eight shops to see how exposed staff are.
"Open counters will surely appeal to the have-a-go crook."
The worker also expressed concerns about staffing levels in the evenings.
Friday's incident was the second armed robbery at a Plymouth Ladbrokes in the last 12 months.
Last June, James Chamberlain, armed with a knife, and an accomplice who was armed with a hammer, robbed the Stoke branch, making off with £450. Chamberlain, 22, was jailed for 43 months.
Richard Royal, public affairs manager at Ladbrokes, said: "There are eight Ladbrokes shops in the Plymouth area, and we have only experienced one robbery or attempted robbery in the last two years.
"The suspect was caught rapidly in part due to our excellent CCTV images, and he was sentenced to more than three and a half years imprisonment, running concurrently with another sentence for a robbery offence locally."
Asked about calls for bandit screens, Mr Royal said: "The local management is not aware of any requests for such screens in these shops, and I'd reiterate that the shop in question was considered to be in a safe and quiet area."
He added: "The staff present followed all the correct guidelines.
"We are the only UK betting company to have a 24-hour security team which can view all of our shops at any time; we have top-of-the-range CCTV; and we also have security devices such as alarms and magnetic door locks as standard, in addition to other significant security procedures which we clearly wouldn't want known publicly.
"Lone working has been used in the betting industry, as it is in many other industries, for many years.
"Shops are thoroughly risk assessed beforehand and as a result the level of incidents is much lower in those shops where lone working is used."
A spokesman from William Hill confirmed the rival company's security procedures, including the use of bandit screens.
"Security is an issue that we take very seriously," he said. "In Plymouth, we have three shops, all of which have bandit screens installed and all of which are double staffed until close."
He added: "We also have safe havens in all of our shops and across the country we have initiated our award winning counterplan.
"All of these factors have been instrumental in a nationwide decrease (year on year) in the number of robberies. We have had no robberies in the last three years in any of our Plymouth shops."
Meanwhile, the body of 50-year-old Levers – who was using an imitation pistol and wearing a gas mask for Friday's raid – has been formally identified, police have revealed.
Results of a post-mortem examination, carried out at the weekend, have not yet been revealed.
The city's top cop, Chief Superintendent Andy Bickley, has written to business leaders reassuring them about Plymouth's low crime rates.
A police spokesman added that the four people inside the Ladbrokes at the time of the raid – two of whom are thought to have tackled gun-toting Levers – were not likely to face arrest.
"At this time, police are not anticipating taking any legal proceedings against them," he added.
"These key witnesses acted bravely under difficult circumstances and showed a disregard for their safety."
Police say further tests on Levers' body still have to be completed – the results of which are expected to be released by the coroner at a date in the future.
Police were this morning continuing to investigate the dramatic raid. The dad-of-four burst into the bookies at around 6.45pm – and witnesses who may have seen him in the moments leading up to the incident are still being sought.
He was pronounced dead at the scene after being found to be non-responsive when police arrived to arrest him, it is understood.
Although Devon and Cornwall Police is continuing to lead the investigation, the incident has been referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission.
"We wait to hear what level of involvement, if any, they wish to have," the force spokesman added.