One of the country’s worst robbers has been spared jail after he tried to hold up a bookmaker’s shop with a tin of pilchards.
Rory Seager, 18, owed a friend £1,800 and spent the day ploughing his last pennies into roulette machines hoping to win the money until he was down to his last pound.
The 6ft 4in teenager then hit upon plan to rob the bookies – where he was a regular customer.
He bought a 99p tin of John West pilchards from his local corner shop and burst into William Hill in Longwood Gardens, Ilford, Essex, on 20 December last year.
Seager demanded cash and claimed the tin of fish in tomato sauce he had in a black bag was a lethal explosive device, Snaresbrook Crown Court heard.
‘I’ve got a bomb,’ he told an astonished cashier Adeyemi Awomudu who simply walked off into a secure room at the back of the shop.
Seager hurled his fishy snack across the shop in frustration and left.
Mr Awomudu had recognised him and Seager was arrested shortly afterwards, confessing to his bungled plan immediately at the police station.
He admitted attempted robbery and one count of communicating false information about a bomb hoax.
Edward Franklin, prosecuting, said: ‘In respect of the bomb hoax, this wasn’t a classic bomb hoax in that the security services weren’t alerted and there’s no evidence that any action was taken by the authorities.
‘Both my learned friend and I agree that this is beast dealt with as an attempted robbery – you can say you have a knife or a gun, in this case it was a tin of pilchards masquerading as a bomb.’
Judge Karl King remarked: ‘The thing that moved the man behind the counter to go behind the safe and into the secure room was undoubtedly the belief that the defendant had a bomb.’
Caroline Carberry, for Seager, said he had been suffering from diagnosed but untreated depression and psychosis at the time of the incident and has Tourette’s Syndrome.
‘These are serious offences and I accept the custody threshold has been passed, and normally these types of offences would merit an immediate sentence of imprisonment.’
She continued: ‘He’s far from someone who fits the profile of a robber of a small business, it’s a great irony that Rory Seager went into a bookmaker somewhere he frequented, somewhere he was known – he knew the man behind the counter.’
She added that Seager’s own mother also works at a bookies, and the fact that he chose to rob a similar premises to his mother’s indicated he ‘hadn’t given it much thought’.
In a letter to the judge, Seager wrote: ‘I just want the judge to know I need help and I will be an outstanding member of my community.’
Ms Carberry added: ‘This was entirely out of character, this was an aberration in this young man’s life.’
Sentencing Seager to a two-year suspended sentence, two year’s supervision by the probation service and ordering him to undergo mental health treatment, Judge King said: ‘There can be absolutely no doubt that what you did was to commit a very serious offence.’
He added: ‘One can only imagine how petrified he must have been’
‘You secreted this item in a black bag, no doubt to give it a more convincing air to what you were doing.’
He continued: ‘You are young man suffering from a number of psychological conditions that had gone untreated, but you had got to the age of 18 without having descended into criminal activity.
‘The disorders from which you suffered were long standing disorders and one can only commend members of your family for being able to cope for so long.
‘It is in that context I have to decide how I want to deal with you, I’m satisfied that the custody threshold has been passed – what I am about to do is exceptional and does not reduce the gravity of your offence you committed.
‘I am persuaded that I can suspend the sentence.’
Judge King also barred him from an betting shop for the next 12 months and ordered him to pay a £100 surcharge.
Seager, of (34) Jefferson Close, Ilford, wiped away tears as his sentence was read out and thanked the judge before leaving the dock.
One of Seager’s family members shouted ‘You are a just and a fair man your honour’ as the judge left the bench.