Hammer attack soldier caged

AN ex-soldier who went on the rampage with a sledgehammer and caused £10,000 of pounds of damage to a town centre has been jailed for two-and-a-half years.

Daniel Arnold, who did basic training with the Coldstream Guards, smashed all of the cashpoints in Billingham town centre, putting them out of action, and also targeted a number of businesses during a two-night wrecking spree.

The 23-year-old “went berserk” and caused damage at a number of businesses, including various banks, a video rental shop, an optician’s and estate agents.

His trail of destruction only came to an end when he severed his thumb and had to go to hospital.

In police interview, Arnold said he carried out the town centre attacks because he “just hates Billingham” and said he had trashed a children’s playground because he broke his legs there as a three-year-old.

Prosecuting, Olivia Checa-Dover told Teesside Crown Court Arnold first went to the Book Inn at 2.30am on June 29 and caused £1,400 of damage after smashing a window with a brick.

Miss Checa-Dover added: “The next night, having armed himself with a sledgehammer, from his father’s garage he went on to what can only be described as a destructive rampage across Billingham town centre.”

Miss Checa-Dover said while in hospital for treatment to his thumb, he tried to escape and caused damage to a door.

She added: “These offences had a very significant impact on the community.”

The court heard a week earlier Arnold also damaged a barn window and broke into a Grade II-listed building in Norfolk after he found himself in the area when his car broke down.

Arnold, a gardener from Central Avenue, Billingham, admitted seven counts of criminal damage and burglary on June 29-30 and criminal damage and burglary in Norfolk on June 22.

Duncan McReddie, mitigating, said: “When he attended the police station in Norwich, he immediately said ‘I don’t want to go to Afghanistan, I can’t cope with the sound’.

“It’s the submission of the defence that he was obviously suffering from psychosis at the time of the incidents.”

He said Arnold’s family was supporting him in getting help for his mental illness.

Judge George Moorhouse said Arnold had “seemed to have gone berserk” and added the offences were so serious that a custodial sentence was justified.