Questions have been posed in court about whether a Napier dairy proprietor and a pink fairy would have done what they did to a would-be robber had they known what he had in his trousers.

Out-of-luck Kahu Timoti Wihapi was confronted by club-wielding Hastings St store owner John Zhao before being chased through a motel courtyard where he was tackled by breast cancer fundraiser supporter Liam Fontaine, who was dressed as a pink fairy.

Only then did the pair become aware their captive was concealing a single-barrel shotgun in his pants.

That it was unloaded mattered little to Judge Geoff Rea in Napier District Court yesterday as he sentenced Wihapi, 42, to two years and seven months' jail for the October 29 attempted aggravated robbery.

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The judge kept the questions rolling by wondering how a man claiming to be homeless might have acquired such a firearm.

Having pleaded guilty, Wihapi got what he told police was his goal — a return to prison.

But his stint will be shorter than it would have been had Zhou not detected Wihapi's suspicious behaviour in the shop and presented his own batten. He and the customers chased Wihapi out before he could pull out the gun and carry out his original Sunday afternoon plan.

Judge Rea said it was "perhaps fortuitous" for Wihapi that they intervened, enabling the sentence to be calculated down from five years, including a 25 per cent reduction for the immediate admissions and guilty plea.