Man, 35, jailed after stripping half naked in cathedral and punching OAP in 'divine urge'

Nicholas Courtney also climbed altar during rampage in the 600-year-old Exeter Cathedral

He said he had the compulsion to “give everything to God,” but the actions of a 35-year-old man who pulled down his trousers before climbing on top of an altar and punching a grandmother in the face certainly didn’t appease the CPS.

Nicholas Courtney has been jailed for 26 months after he stripped down in Exeter Cathedral despite going in there, he claims, to pray.

After apparently becoming overcome with the urge to submit himself to God, he placed £20 in the donation box by the high altar before getting half-naked.

Cathedral staff managed to persuade him to get dressed, but he then ascended the altar knocking a cloth and two candle sticks to the ground, before jumping off and breaking a crucifix doing so.

Shocked tourists and worshippers looked on as Courtney fled through the cathedral’s west exit.

Exeter Crown Court heard that Courtney then hit an annoyed spectator who began chastising him for his actions, but he became more incensed when she then hit him back.

His rampage, at lunchtime on 15 February, continued as he punched a 70-year-old cancer sufferer who had been posing for a photograph with her grandchildren.

Courtney hit the pensioner in her right eye causing her to fall the ground and fracture her wrist.

He was caught and held down by members of the public, later pleading guilty to charges of criminal damage and inflicting grievous bodily harm.

The court heard that when police arrived Courtney mused aloud: “Oh God, what have I done? I can't come back here, I will get a kicking. This is God's waiting room, isn't it?”

The defence said that Courtney had been prescribed treatment for mental health issues but had not been taking it, instead self-medicating with legal highs.

Jeremy Harris, defending, said: “He is totally appalled, he is deeply remorseful for his actions. He describes his actions as despicable and totally beyond reason.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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