Gambler robbed in ‘desperation’

A GAMBLING addict lunged at a bookie with a tyre lever in his desperation to get his hands on cash.

George Peel was a “Mr Average” who was a good father and partner and had never been in trouble, Durham Crown Court heard.

But the 43-year-old of Beaumont Place, Peterlee, is beginning a 14-month jail term after he robbed one betting shop and tried to turn over another.

Peel went in to Just A Bet, in East Shore Village, Seaham, on December 1 and demanded manager Alan Kelly hand over cash from a partially open till.

When he refused, Peel lunged at him with what he believed was a claw hammer.

He then grabbed at £20 notes and left, getting away with £320.

Alerted by a panic button, police arrived a short time later and were helped by other staff who were able to identify Peel from CCTV.

Although he had worn the hood of his top half up, they were able to recognise him as a customer.

The court was told he had earlier banned himself from the shop as he tried to beat his gambling addition.

In a statement, Mr Kelly, who had been alone in the shop, told officers he thought Peel must have been “very desperate” to turn to crime, but did not see that as an excuse for what he had done.

He said he had managed to come to terms with the robbery, although he was more wary of customers and was pleased a female colleague had not been targeted.

Peel confessed after his arrest and told officers he was £10,000 in debt because of his addiction.

He pleaded guilty to robbery asked for another attempted robbery, on a Ladbrokes in North Shields the day after the Seaham attack, to be taken into consideration.

Ian Bradshaw, mitigating, told the court: “He has led an uneventful life, in many respects he is Mr Average apart from this addiction to gambling.

“Speaking to his partner, they have been together for 14 years, he’s a exemplary partner and husband and gambling has been the only problem to manifest itself.

“She has encouraged him to seek assistance, which he has through Gamblers Anonymous and several other organisations, and she can tell when he is drifting back into his old ways.

“This occurred in the first week of December, Christmas was on the horizon and his partner found out he had blown all his pay for that particular week.

“He accepts his behaviour was abhorrent, and I don’t think your honour will be troubled by this man again.”

Recorder Paul Reid jailed Peel for 14 months, minus 21 days he had spent on remand, with half to be served in jail and the remainder on licence.