South Shields man who warned 'I'll kill somebody' sparked four-hour house siege

Mark Coates is led away by police after the standoff

Mark Coates is led away by police after the standoff

A man who sparked a four-hour armed siege when he rang the police and warned "I will kill somebody" has walked free from court.

Mark Coates, 50, called 999 and claimed he had a collection of weapons, including guns, which he was preparing to use on himself and others.

His threats resulted in an armed stand-off, which drew a large crowd and ended four hours later, when Coates went outside for a cigarette.

Coates, who has a long term alcohol problem and was drunk, confessed later that he could remember nothing about what happened "other than hearing on the radio there was a siege at my house".

Newcastle Crown Court heard when officers arrived at his home in Moreland Road, South Shields, on February 8, they were greeted by him standing at the top of the stairs of his upper flat with a crossbow.

When officers backed away, Coates took the weapon to a window.

Neil Pallister, prosecuting, told the court: "The police clearly saw he was holding a crossbow in his hands and pointing it out of the window.

"At one point the defendant leant with his elbows on the window sill, which gave the officers the impression it was about to be fired."

The court heard police negotiators, a firearms unit, fire and ambulance crews and gas experts were all called to the house.

Police put a cordon around the property for the safety of neighbours and passers by.

Mr Pallister added: "The scene lasted for four hours and by that time a large crowd had gathered. After that, the defendant appeared at the front door, smoking a cigarette and engaged in conversation with the officers. As he walked down the garden path, two officers ran from cover and detained him as he was being distracted by negotiators."

When police searched Coates' home, they found a crossbow and two bolts. A third bolt had been fired into a bedroom wall.

A crow bar and a baseball bat were also found.

Coates Pleaded guilty to affray and possessing a small amount of cannabis found in his flat.

The court heard that, in the days leading up to the stand-off, Coates had been on an unsupervised alcohol detox but was experiencing withdrawal symptoms, including illusions and hallucinations, and had started drinking again.

He was also in a high state of anxiety through being unable to get help from medical professionals.

Judge Paul Sloan told him: "This was a serious offence. The officers were placed in danger, given that you were brandishing a potentially lethal weapon at a time when you were drunk.

"Moreover, members of the public had to be ushered to a place of safety. This involved the emergency services for some four hours."

The judge said Coates had come within a "hair's breadth" of going to prison but sentenced him to 12 months behind bars, suspended for two years, with rehabilitation and alcohol treatment.

The judge said intervention would be a "greater benefit to the community at large than locking you up. "

The court heard since the stand-off Coates has made a number of changes to his lifestyle and has genuine remorse for what he did."

Tony Hawks, defending, said Coates has never been in trouble with the police, despite his long term alcohol problem.

Mr Hawks added; "The extraordinary feature is he remembers listening to the radio and hearing there was a siege at his own home ."