A ROBBERY victim bravely came face-to-face with the man who held her hostage in a bid to help her come to terms with the terrifying ordeal.

After years of struggling with depression and panic attacks triggered by the armed raid in May 2014, the 23-year-old victim agreed to meet the attacker who dragged her across the floor of a bank and threatened her with a meat cleaver.

“I had gone into the bank to withdraw money when he came through the door dressed in a black tracksuit and beanie cap,” recalled Steph, who has asked to remain anonymous.

“I looked over and it was like a sixth sense – I knew something wasn’t quite right. Everything slowed down and I knew something was going to happen. He grabbed me and threatened the cashier.

“He put a meat cleaver to my neck and pushed me down to the ground and dragged me by the hair across the floor while demanding money.

“As the cashier was trying to get money out he gestured towards my feet as if he was going to cut them off.

“At that moment I had accepted that I wasn’t going to leave the bank alive. I was going to die.”

But while the raider was distracted, Steph was able to crawl to safety and lock herself in a room.

The cashiers activated the alarm and within minutes police were at the scene.

Within 10 days, Ian Jones, from Chester, was arrested and he was later sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to robbery at the Santander branch.

But the sentencing did not give Steph the closure she hoped for.

She struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder and found it difficult to leave the house.

“Three years after the sentencing I found out that he was about to come out of prison,” she said.

“Fear and anxiety came into my head as I couldn’t cope with the thought of him being on the street.”

It was at this time that Steph was informed about the restorative justice programme through her victim support manager.

Her anger started to finally lift after Ian told her about his personal problems.

“When I heard Ian was being released from prison, I was terrified of bumping into him, but at the same time I wanted to understand why he had committed the offence and let him know the full impact on my life,” she said.

“I was reluctant at first but the Remedi service walked me through the process and helped me make small steps before my initial meeting.

“This included Ian providing a letter, photo and a voice recording to help reduce my anxieties.

“When we eventually met, Ian accepted full responsibility and answered all of my questions. I wanted to shake his hand at the end of the meeting.

“I now feel like I have my life back.”

Ian agreed to take part in the restorative justice programme to put his offending behind him.

The 45-year-old described the scheme as ‘a turning point in his life’ as he had never taken the victims into consideration before.

“It was my way of saying goodbye to the past while confronting what I had done,” he said.

“I felt like Steph got closure and it helped her a lot so that helped me.”