A DRUG addict who attacked disabled pensioner Alan Barnes – sparking a region-wide fund-raising campaign – has issued a prison cell apology for what he did to his frail victim.
The four foot six 67-year-old, who is registered blind, was attacked by cowardly thug Richard Gatiss on his own doorstop where he suffered a broken collarbone and was left too afraid to return home.
His plight touched the nation, with shocked members of the public raising over £330,000 to help him start a new life.
At Newcastle Crown Court today, via videolink to HMP Durham, where he was being held for his own safety, 25-year-old Gatiss pleaded guilty to assault with intent to rob.
His barrister Jamie Adams told the court Gatiss, who was wearing a prison issue sweatshirt and shirt, was being held in segregation due to the high feelings surrounding the case.
Mr Adams told the court: “He wishes me to say at this stage he is shocked, horrified and deeply ashamed of what he did.
“He has not stopped thinking about Mr Barnes since this awful deed.
“He is very conscious of being in the public eye and everyone not just staring but glaring at him.
“It is having an effect on his well being.”
Judge Paul Sloan Qc adjourned sentence until April 2 for the preparation of reports on Gatiss, who had been due to have a brain scan and was being seen by a neurologist before the attack.
The judge remanded him in custody and warned: “You will appreciate, an immediate custodial sentence is pretty well inevitable in the circumstances of this case.
“You will remain in custody.”
Alan’s attacker had remained at large in the weeks after his ordeal but Gatiss was arrested and charged after his DNA was found inside the pensioner’s coat pocket.
The court heard at a previous hearing Gatiss has an addiction to legal highs and had targeted Alan to feed his habit.
Mr Adams said Gatiss, who has as a history of mental health problems, denies his victim was targeted out of hatred or hostility.
Gatiss first got in trouble as a teenager and has been arrested eight times since.
Mr Barnes plight touched the hearts of strangers after a woman dubbed the Angel of the North sarted a bid to raid him just a few hundred pounds.
In the end Katie Cutler, 21, raised a whopping £330,000 and has held a charity ball where she spoke of her wish to continue helping others.
Miss Cutler and Mr Barnes, who are now firm friends, attended the ball at the Assembly Rooms, in Newcastle together.
Mr Barnes, was handed his cheque in front of a crowd of more than 150 people after the pair had another chance to catch up.
The money raised at the ball will be shared between the Turbo Trust, which provides grants for disabled people, and the Kacie Martin Campaign.
Mr Barnes, who will now be able to spend the £330,135,00 that Katie raised for him, said at the time: “Absolutely wonderful, I’ve loved today.
“It is just so amazing what has happened, I feel like I’m part of a big thing. We have so many photos taken together and whatever she does I seem to be asked to come along as well.
“I feel like I’m part of everything that Katie does now, so I feel good about that.
“It’s great that other people are getting her help as well and nice to be part of that.
“I’m not used to anything like this, I don’t think many people are but it’s a nice way to end the fundraising and for me to get to know Katie and her family.
“If someone can find me a house near Katie, I would like to move to her area, we can keep doing fundraising.
“I think it’s hard to do something as big as this one but if we can do things for other people, smaller ones, so more people can receive the benefit as well as me.
“I’ve been getting chauffeured around a lot lately, totally different to what I did before, but it’s learning new things and meeting new people.
“The fund was a total surprise but what I’ve gained the most from all this is meeting Katie.”
Mr Barnes, of Low Fell, Gateshead, who was born with sight and growth problems after his mother contracted German Measles during pregnancy, stands at just over four feet tall and weighs a mere six stone.