A PROLIFIC robber has been jailed for five-and-a-half years.

Gary Cassell made accusations to his victims that they were in the wrong before grabbing their belongings.

The 34-year-old approached a man outside the One Stop shop in Wivenhoe last May, and began talking to him before walking off.

He then returned within seconds, punched the victim in the face as he held a large knife and said the man had stolen his girlfriend’s purse.

When the man denied it, Cassell said: “Yes you have - give me the money or I will stab you.”

He then struck him again and pushed him against a wall in the shop car park before stealing his mobile phone.

Just weeks before, Cassell, of Colchester Road, Wivenhoe, had accused a man of bumping into his wife in a shop in Long Wyre Street, Colchester.

He then followed the man, tightly grabbing his arm and pushing him to sit on a wall.

Cassell then menacingly said the victim would pay for his partner’s coffee before rooting through his bag and making off with his wallet.

He admitted two counts of robbery and possession of a bladed article.

Cassell has 11 previous convictions for robbery, and two for attempted robbery.

The court heard the father-of-three had been making good progress since being remanded in custody and was working to tackle his underlying issues with grief and cocaine addiction.

Sentencing him at Chelmsford Crown Court, Judge Christopher Morgan said: “You have a bad record for robberies - arming yourself with knives and sometimes screwdrivers to reinforce the threat.

“You are a robber - you well know that.

“On both occasions you used a similar ruse that the victims had somehow offended your partner.”