THREE brutal thugs who attacked a Widnes shopkeeper ‘like a pack of animals’ have been caged for four and a half years at Warrington Crown Court today.

They repeatedly punched and kicked Mr Kukendren Arunasalam in the face and body, knocking out his teeth and pushing him onto the floor.

In a drunken stupor, one of the robbers continued to beat him in a back room after the gang stole cigarettes, cash and vodka from the Nila Convenience Store in Widnes Road.

They ripped off his t-shirt and snatched £600 from his zipped jacket.

CCTV footage captured the Widnes gang reigning relentless blows in the savage attack.

The victim, who still feels petrified, told the court: “I was totally defenceless. I thought I was going to die.”

Andrew Priestley, aged 31, of Highfield Road, David Morris, aged 28, of Greenway Road and Anthony Farmer, aged 40, of Norland Street admitted the robbery on April 22, 2014.

Sentencing them, recorder Stuart Driver said: “You acted as a group to commit a savage, violent robbery.

“There was extensive violence. The victim was racially insulted. You caused him considerable suffering, physical injuries, a black eye, swelling to the face, knocking out two teeth which had to be put back in by a dentist.

“There was also psychological damage. His confidence has been completely lost and he has a feeling of fear.

“He finds it difficult to sleep and has headaches and buzzing in his head.”

Prosecuting, Sarah Morgan said the victim was working alone when the gang burst into his shop at 8.30pm.

She said the victim has been left extremely traumatised.

She said: “The robbery has affected him emotionally, physically and financially. He used to feel safe working in the busy town centre of Widnes close to the police station. Now his confidence is lost.”

He has to employ someone as he no longer feels safe on his own.

In a statement, Mr Arunasalam said: “The feeling of fear has never left me and has affected my state of mind.

“I keep thinking people are coming to attack me. I have not slept a full night since the attack.”

Priestley has 13 previous convictions for 52 offences, Morris has 25 convictions for 52 offences and Farmer has 26 convictions for 55 offences.

All three were heavily intoxicated with alcohol when they were arrested hours after the robbery.

Tammy Mitchell, defending Priestley and Morris, said both men were remorseful and their behaviour was totally out of character.

She said Priestley, who has five children aged seven to 14, used to work as an engineer but lost contact with his family when his relationship broke up.

She said: “When he watched the CCTV he was totally sick at his own actions and mortified by his behaviour.

“Morris described watching back the footage as feeling disgusted with himself.”

Defending Farmer, Philip Martin said: “The behaviour of these three individuals is like a pack of animals.

“It was gratuitous violence. Drink is no mitigation.”

He said Farmer has no recollection of the attack but has expressed deep shame and remorse.

He overcame addiction to class A drugs seven years ago but has struggled to conquer his alcohol dependency.

Afterwards, investigating officer DC Marc Roberts said: “This was a particularly nasty shop robbery.

"The offenders were clearly very intoxicated during the attack which was opportunistic, unprovoked and unnecessary.

"Mr Arunasalam offered no resistance to the robbers but was subjected to a severe, sustained beating which has had a profound effect on him.

"The offenders can be seen to be laughing with each other as they make off from the store.

"They were traced and arrested within hours thanks to prompt and decisive response form Widnes neighbourhood policing team and our partners at Halton Council CCTV to whom the victim would like to pass on his thanks.

"The severity of the attack is reflected in the sentence imposed by the court which has gone a long way to reassure the victim and I hope sends out a clear message that behaviour like this will not be tolerated by the community, Cheshire Police and the courts.”