‘Cry for help’ gambling addict smashed up bookies with hammer after getting £60,000 in debt

Ladbrokes in Cowgate. Copyright Google Images.
Ladbrokes in Cowgate. Copyright Google Images.

A gambling addict with a £60,000 debt smashed up a bookies shop with a hammer as a “cry for help”.

 Jonathan Wright, of Firgrove, South Shields, went into Ladbrokes, Cowgate branch in Newcastle, demanded money then caused more than £4,000 of damage to gaming machines and a television.

 Newcastle Crown Court was told he had the deliberate intention of getting arrested so he could get help and, after the attack, drove straight to a police station and handed himdself in.

 Wright was originally charged with attempted robbery but prosecutors accepted his guilty pleas to affray and criminal damage.

 Mr recorder Simon Kealey gave him a a 12 month prison sentence, suspended for 18 months with supervision and 140 hours unpaid work and told him: “These circumstances are bizarre and unusual.”

 He added: “You decided to try to get yourself arrested as a cry for help.

 “You were, I accept, never going to carry the robbery through but you armed yourself with a hammer and, to the terrified employee, it must have felt you intended to rob her.

 “Ordinarily, arming yourself with a hammer and going to a public place would lead to an immediate custodial sentence, but this is not an ordinary case.”

 The judge said he was able to suspend the prison sentence because Wright had sought help and was remorseful.

 The judge added: “You were in great mental tormen during the latter part of last year but have begun to turn your life around with some professional help and have got a job.

 “It’s clear you are remorseful for your actions and you have expressed an apology to that poor lady.”

 The court heard Wright initially went to a Ladbrokes in Gosforth with the hammer on December 5 last year but he changed his mind because there were customers there and instead went to the branch at Cowgate.

 Vince Ward, prosecuting, said: “Before he produced the hammer he asked an employee for money. She became scared.

 The defendant produced a money bag and the employee pressed an emergency button.”

 He said Wright then started attacking gaming machines and a television screen with the hammer.

 Geoff Knowles, defending, said: “He had got himself in serious gambling debts of £60,000.

 “It is referred to as a cry for help and he told the staff he wanted to be arrested, needed help and wanted to be off the streets.

 “He was a man on the edge from the insidious effects of gambling. He has not gambled since and is getting the help he needs.”

 Mr Knowles said Wright had spent three months remanded in custody after the offences and added: “He would have been extremely upsetting for the lady concerned and through me he apologises for the upset he caused.

 “He is genuinely sorry and is making progress.”