A MAN who went into a Lake District off-licence and threatened the sales assistant with a rock has been sent to prison for three and a half years.

Mark Holden, 30, raided the Windermere Wine Store in Compston Road, Ambleside, late on the afternoon of December 23.

He was spotted entering an area behind the counter to which the public were not supposed to have access.

And when salesman Rupert Howell challenged him, prosecuting counsel Rebecca Smith said, Holden held up a rock as if to hit him.

Holden told Mr Howell to open the till, but Mr Howell claimed there was nothing in it – whereupon Holden pushed him down a flight of 12 stairs, Ms Smith said.

Holden fled empty-handed, leaving Mr Howell with “bumps and bruises”.

Ms Smith told the court Mr Howell had told police later: “It will take some considerable time before my life gets back to normal.”

He said he now felt nervous whenever a customer entered the shop and he suffered sleepless nights reliving the experience.

Holden, of Kirkfield Rise, Ambleside, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery.

His barrister Alison Whalley said he was an ex heroin addict with 71 previous convictions, though none was as serious as this one.

She said he had been managing to keep out of trouble until June last year when his baby son died.

She told the judge: “I am not suggesting that he would not have continued to commit offences, but his sad personal circumstances did lead him to go completely out of control.”

Passing sentence, Judge Peter Hughes QC said Holden was lucky that Mr Howell had not been more seriously hurt.

He said he took into account the affect the death of Holden’s son had had on him but he told him: “You know it simply can’t excuse the sort of thing you did on this occasion.”