Pensioner mugger ‘used legal highs’

Published: Tuesday 24th February 2015 by The News Editor

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A 25-year-old who admitted attacking disabled pensioner Alan Barnes, whose plight prompted people to donate thousands of pounds, was a user of so-called legal highs at the time, it can now be reported.

Richard Gatiss shoved over the 4ft 6in, frail and visually-impaired 67-year-old as he put out his wheelie bin on January 25, breaking his victim’s collarbone.

Gatiss appeared at Newcastle Crown Court via a video-link from Durham Prison and admitted assault with intent to rob.

At a previous hearing, details of the case which could not then be reported were revealed, including the fact that Gatiss should not be given bail on that occasion for his own safety.

And prosecutor Keith Laidlaw told the previous hearing at Gateshead Magistrates’ Court: “Legal highs played their part in this.

“There is also possession of cannabis on his record and there is a drugs background.”

Gatiss forced Mr Barnes to the pavement outside his home in Low Fell, Gateshead, and told him “hand over your money” but his victim said he had none.

The mugger ran off when Mr Barnes shouted for help.

Northumbria Police detectives traced Gatiss after recovering forensic evidence the mugger left on Mr Barnes’s jacket pocket.

The attack was motivated by a need for money for drugs, the previous hearing was told.

At the Crown Court, Jamie Adams, defending, said his client was segregated in prison because of the strong feelings his crime aroused.

“He wishes me to say at this stage that he is shocked, horrified and deeply ashamed of what he did,” the barrister said.

“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 gazing at him but glaring at him.

“It is having a deleterious effect on his wellbeing.

“Necessarily, he is segregated in prison because of the way people feel about him.”

Judge Paul Sloan QC, the Recorder of Newcastle, adjourned the case to allow reports to be prepared, but he warned Gatiss that jail was likely.

Remanding him in custody, he said: “You will appreciate that an immediate custodial sentence is pretty well inevitable in the circumstances.”

Gatiss, who had curly hair on top with shaved sides, looked nervous as he watched proceedings over the link.

No-one from his family or his victim’s side was in court.

Well-wishers from around the world donated £330,000 to an online fund for Mr Barnes set up by beautician Katie Cutler.

After he received the cheque, he said: “It is just absolutely like a fairy story.

“You might read about it in a book, but it has come true. It is hard to find the words really, it was just a total, total surprise.”

He planned to buy a house near Ms Cutler in Greenside, Gateshead, and he will also undertake charity work with the money.

Meanwhile, Ms Cutler has used her global fundraising profile to encourage donations to help other good causes.

The ace fundraiser said: “It gives you a warm feeling inside when you help people.”

Published: Tuesday 24th February 2015 by The News Editor

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