Popular Ballymena retailer Eugene Diamond, who has amassed almost 5,000 followers on Twitter, experienced the dark side of social media when a man attempted to rob his store and then shared footage of the incident on social media platform TikTok.
A man has since been arrested after a video of Diamonds News owner, Eugene, refusing to give the would-be robber cash from the till was posted online.
Eugene was approached by the hooded criminal last Sunday while on his own at the store. “This guy appeared fully clothed up, other than his eyes, and demanded money from the till,” Eugene told Convenience Store.
He was unable to tell if the man had a weapon, but refused to hand over the cash and hit the panic button. “I said ‘the police will be here soon’ and he said ‘you’ll regret this’ and he left,” recounted Eugene.
He explained how the police “swang into action”, searching the streets with a helicopter and the shop was briefly closed while they investigated the crime scene.
Later that same day, footage of the attempted robbery appeared on TikTok. “He had some sort of recording device on his person,” said Eugene. “People told me about the video … and the police are using it as evidence.”
A 20-year-old man was arrested on the Sunday, but has been released on bail to allow for further enquiries.
“They’ve confiscated his phone and other electrical devices,” said Eugene. “They will search it all, but it can take up to six weeks to do that sort of thing. So as such he’s out on bail, but one of the conditions is that he doesn’t go anywhere near the street that my shop is on.”
While the crime in itself was deeply upsetting, it was the fact that it was posted on social media that Eugene found particularly unsavoury. “It went viral and that’s the worst part of it,” he said. “People are calling it ‘a pathetic robbery’, but what they don’t appreciate is that I was the victim of the robbery. I was the person that was only seeing a pair of eyes.”
Sadly, this isn’t Eugene’s first run-in with a robber and although he admits he was left feeling shaken up, he was more concerned about how such an incident could impact a less experienced member of the team. “I’ve been held up by a gun; we had a guy in a Spiderman outfit try to rob the shop! I’ve been through it all,” he said. “If that had been one of the girls that worked for me on Sunday morning, they never would have stood behind the counter again. It would have been a frightening experience.
“These guys [criminals] don’t appreciate the mark they leave on a person’s mind. They don’t think how it affects the shopworker. I have every sympathy with anybody that gets robbed or has people come in with masks because it’s horrendous.”
If you are a retailer or shopworker in need of emotional support or advice following a workplace incident, visit the Grocery Aid website or call the free helpline on 08088 021 122.