THE getaway driver in an armed robbery on a security van needed the money to visit his terminally ill son in hospital, a court heard.

Gary Allen, 41, of Fairfield Road in Salisbury, and Ricky Maidment, 27, of Rollestone Street, admitted robbing a G4S security guard of £18,000 outside Tesco Express in Fordingbridge.

Maidment, who threatened the security guard with a machete during the incident on March 5, was jailed for four years and eight months by Judge Samuel Wiggs at Bournemouth Crown Court on Friday. Allen was jailed for two years and eight months.

After the raid the pair drove off in Allen's Land Rover, but they were followed by a member of the public who gave the registration number to police, and were arrested shortly afterwards.

Prosecutor Stuart Ellacott told the court the pair met at Salisbury Hospital, where Allen's 19-year-old step-son was being treated for cystic fibrosis, 18 months before the raid.

In mitigation, Robert Grey told the court self-employed tree surgeon and gardener Allen, who has no previous convictions, had been approached by Maidment offering him a chance to make some money, but he had refused.

But when his son was moved to Southampton Hospital Allen agreed to be the getaway driver, to get money for daily trips to the hospital.

His wife told the court her son was given six months to live, three months ago, and so Allen agreed to drive Maidment, who has a long criminal record including a serious offence of violence, to and from the scene.

Sentencing Allen, Judge Wiggs said his case was “exceptionally tragic” and the jail term was “the very least” he could impose.

“I am sorry you have let your family down in this way,” he said.

“And I am sure you are too - I am sorry for the inevitable effect this will have on your son.”

Maidment was also given a concurrent one year jail term for possessing a blade. Both were ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge.