An offender who traumatised two women has been sentenced to four years in prison after using an imitation firearm to threaten his victims and carry out a robbery in Canterbury.
On Tuesday 31 October 2023, two women took refuge in a city centre hotel after being followed along the High Street by a man carrying what appeared to be a small gun.
Afterwards, the man went to a café in the High Street where he intimidated a member of staff with the weapon, which was later discovered to be an imitation.
A customer in the café, who had followed the offender outside, was then forced to hand over cash after fearing for his safety when the weapon was pointed at him.
Armed officers from Kent Police attended the scene and shortly afterwards arrested Esmatullah Sharfi, 31, of no fixed address. Sharfi was searched and found to be carrying a cigarette lighter designed to look like a genuine firearm.
He was later charged with robbery and three counts of possession of an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence.
Sharfi pleaded guilty to all charges at Canterbury Crown Court and on Wednesday 6 December 2023 was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment.
Detective Constable Matthew Burridge, of East Kent CID, said:
‘Sharfi traumatised his victims by allowing them to believe that their lives could be in danger, with the deliberate use of what appeared to be a live firearm. Imitation weapons can be incredibly convincing and Sharfi relied on the fear of his victims to manipulate the situation to his gain.
‘I would hope that the sentence imposed by the judge in this case will serve as a reminder to anyone who would intend to cause fear of violence with imitation firearms that we will not accept the carrying of any weapons in Kent, or their use in threatening or harming people.’
Further information about Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) can be found on our advice and information pages. If you have been a victim of violence and wish to report it, please use our online reporting service. Always call 999 in an emergency.