Brave Wolverhampton shop boss tells how she defied gun-wielding raiders

A mother-of-two who resisted gun-wielding robbers today spoke of the moment raiders burst into her Wolverhampton store.

Gail Southall, the Spar shop owner
Gail Southall, the Spar shop owner

Gail Southall, who owns the Spar shop in Lanesfield, was stacking shelves with assistant Phil Coley, when two balaclava-clad thieves rushed into the Birmingham New Road store yesterday at around 8am.

The 39-year-old immediately saw a gun in the hands of one of the robbers, as he directed it at her and frogmarched both her and Mr Coley out of the back of the store, demanding “where is the safe, its keys and your money?”

Mrs Southall, who has run the family business for 20 years, told the raider her husband Paul had just taken money to the bank, and the keys to the safe with him.

After that exchange, she said her first thought was not to panic, but to raise the alarm with police. She added: “I wasn’t scared as such. I was just thinking this is our stuff and they’re not having it.

“People say a lot of things can run through your head in those situations but you can’t think the worst when something like that happens. I just thought I need to get to the nearest panic alarm.

“I was a bit shook up but you can’t let something like that affect you because you’ve got to go back to work the next day.”

Once the alarm began to wail through the store, thieves managed to escape with 30 packets of cigarettes from a display cabinet before fleeing in a silver Peugeot getaway car. Mrs Southall added: “It probably only took a minute or two in all, but you just don’t expect it at that time in the morning, but we’ve always been security-conscious at the store because we own it, and because we know if you’re not, people just come back.”

Police reached the shop moments after robbers fled but flooded the area with officers and flashed details of the wanted vehicle to all patrols in the area.

Less than 30 minutes later a car was stopped at the junction of Dovedale Road and Mount Road, Penn, and two men aged 35 and 29 were detained. They were helping police with their inquiries today.