A decorator who snatched a woman's handbag containing $170,000 in cash while his accomplice hit the victim on the back and head with a hard object was jailed yesterday for 7.5 years. Chan Yuk-san, 41, who was arrested over the February 7 robbery, was found with a bottle of pepper in his pocket, prosecutor Evelyn Tsang said. Chan claimed he bought the pepper that morning for his wife but police noted the bottle was not new, Ms Tsang said. Mr Recorder Ching Y. Wong, SC, said the pepper was for possible use during the robbery. Chan pleaded guilty in the Court of First Instance to one charge of robbery. Ms Tsang said foreign-exchange shop owner Lau Chi-mei was hit several times but did not see what object was used. She suffered a 1cm cut on her head. Mr Recorder Wong said the only reasonable inference was that the object used was a 30cm-long knife that police found at the crime scene. Ms Tsang said the robbery happened about 5.20pm in Kom U Street, Western, while Ms Lau was on her way home. She had been carrying 10 different currencies and five bank cards. The court heard that after the attack the pair fled but two passers-by subdued Chan, who had been carrying the handbag, in Connaught Road West. Ah Lung is still on the run. Defence counsel Keith Fung Chun-wah said his client had committed the crime partly due to the economic downturn. In sentencing Chan, Mr Recorder Wong told him financial hardship does 'not give you . . . reason to commit a crime, especially to knock somebody on the head to rob them'.