Shopkeeper thought robber was joking until he showed her a gun

Varshna Nayee, robbed at gun point on Friday 14th feb at the Newsagent in Lower Church Road, Burgess Hill. Pic Steve Robards
Varshna Nayee, robbed at gun point on Friday 14th feb at the Newsagent in Lower Church Road, Burgess Hill. Pic Steve Robards

A Burgess Hill mother-of-three has spoken of the moment a robber pulled a gun on her and demanded she fill a bag with cash.

“I could feel my heart pumping,” said Varsha Nayee, “it was really scary - but I wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible.”

Mrs Nayee was alone at the time, aside from her assailant, who had entered her newsagents on Lower Church Road, Burgess Hill, as the rain poured down outside around 1.30pm on Valentine’s Day.

“That Friday was very quiet,” she remembered. “It was raining. The man just put a big rucksack full of clothes in front of me on my counter and left it open.”

In broken English he then told her to put money in the bag -’what you got?’ he said.

“I thought he was joking with me,” said Mrs Nayee, “but then he showed me the gun, pointing the gun at me.”

Mrs Nayee, 43, along with her husband used to run a Post Office and her training kicked in -she remained calm and de-escalated the situation.

“It was scary, but I quickly opened the till, pulled out the money, and put it in his bag.

“At the Post Office they always teach us with anything like that just quickly give it to them what they ask for, rather than think about anything else.”

The newsagent is uncertain of the exact amount the gun-wielding robber made off with, but it was somewhere between £100 to £140 she believes - a small sum to have your life threatened for she reflected.

“But life is more important than money, and luckily he didn’t come inside the counter,” she added, saying: “Thank goodness, otherwise I would have been down on the floor.”

Her attacker immediately fled the scene and according to Mrs Nayee nearly collided with a pedestrian outside flower shop Jennifleur further along Lower Church Walk.

At the same time, as the adrenaline began to subside, Mrs Nayee found herself violently shaking, unable to shut up her shop in her bid to seek safety.

She called out and people came to her assistance, for which she remains very grateful. She thanked the police who arrived swiftly, as well as the numerous customers and friends who have since delivered flowers and offered their support.

The following day Mrs Nayee returned to her newsagents, saying: “I believe strongly you have to just carry on. I came in early on Saturday to open us as usual.

“I’m just thinking positively you know. You have to be positive in life,” she said.

However, the robbery still haunts her at night and when she is alone.

“First night I could not sleep, second night I had a dream and he was walking through my door. It was a pretty bad dream. Sometimes I wake up from a bad dream and I feel like ‘oh’ that man could have killed me.”

She cannot recognise her assailant as he wore a silk scarf around his face.

Sussex Police issued a description of the man they are looking for. He is dark or olive skinned, of medium build, aged 35 to 40, 5’9”, wearing a khaki hooded top, dark trousers and carrying a dark back pack. Anyone who saw someone matching this description in the vicinity last Friday (February 14) can contact Sussex Police quoting serial 725 of 14/2, or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.