Armed robber's gun may be fake

Romsey Advertiser: Police at the scene of an attempted armed robbery at the Ladbrokes branch on Crownhill Road in Plymouth Police at the scene of an attempted armed robbery at the Ladbrokes branch on Crownhill Road in Plymouth

An armed robber who collapsed and died after being disarmed and pinned down by customers in a bookies may have been wielding an imitation gun, police have said.

Alan Levers, 50, was also believed to be wearing a gas mask when he stormed into the Ladbrokes branch on Crownhill Road in Plymouth, Devon, shortly before 7pm on Friday night.

Customers disarmed the man and held him on the floor while others raised the alarm, said Devon and Cornwall Police. Police arrested Levers, who was already unconscious, upon arrival, but he was declared dead at the scene around 20 minutes later by paramedics.

Plymouth police commander Chief Superintendent Andy Bickley praised the actions of the "brave" members of the public, who would not have known if the gun was a fake. He said the four men who were in the shop at the time of the attempted robbery have been helping police with their inquiries, and no arrests have been made.

He said: "I can confirm that no one has been arrested in connection with this death, nor has anyone been questioned under caution as a suspect at this time. I can share with you that the firearm has been initially examined by a police firearms officer and it appears to be an imitation pistol, though this still needs to be verified.

"I would like to add, however, that there would have been no way of knowing this at the time of the incident. The actions taken by members of the public in the shop were brave and showed a disregard for their own safety."

A formal identification of Mr Levers, from the Honicknowle area of the city, has not has not yet been completed, he added. A port-mortem examination took place on Saturday.

Mr Bickley said Mr Levers' family are being supported by police and that their thoughts and condolences are with his family. The witnesses who were inside the betting shop at the time of the incident are also being offered full support by the police.

The incident has been voluntarily referred to the police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, although Devon and Cornwall Police are leading the investigation.

The Ladbrokes branch remained closed on Saturday with two uniformed police officers on duty outside. Anyone who visited the betting shop prior to the incident or was in the immediate area at the time is asked to contact the police on 101 or through Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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