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Man who took hostages at Nuneaton bowling alley with sawn-off shotgun and sword jailed

David Clarke threatened colleagues after trying to find his ex-girlfriend, who was off work

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 02 March 2018 18:46 GMT
Man with 'sawn-off shotgun takes hostages in bowling alley'

A man who used a sawn-off shotgun and samurai sword to take hostages at a bowling alley, has been jailed for 12 years.

David Clarke, 54, sparked a terror alert that saw armed police surround a leisure park in Nuneaton as children as young as five fled the scene.

Warwick Crown Court heard that he demanded to speak to his former girlfriend when he entered their workplace at the MFA Bowl on 22 October.

Clarke began drinking in the bar before pulling the shotgun out of a carrier bag and ordering members of the public to leave the premises.

Witnesses described families running away screaming as Clarke shouted “game over” and threatened victims by holding a 2ft-long knife to their throats.

Clarke’s former partner was not working at the time, but he took two members of staff, aged 17 and 24, hostage for more than four hours.

His manager Josh Steedman told the court that Clarke threatened to “sink the knife" into his ex-girlfriend’s new partner if he arrived and “decapitate him”.

David Clarke has been sentenced to 12 years in jail at Warwick Crown Court (PA)

Mr Steedman was ordered to collect a samurai sword from it from Clarke’s car and told he would injure the teenage hostage if he did not comply with his instructions.

Putting the deactivated shotgun to Mr Steedman’s head and ordering him to obey his commands, the court heard he said: “You ain't making it out of here, you ain't going to see tomorrow."

The younger hostage, who still has flashbacks about the incident, had the gun held to his back and waist during the ordeal, while “volatile” Clarke ran around engaged in “gratuitous and wanton” destruction of the premises.

He bent the teenager over a pool table and threatened to cut off his arm. His victim said he felt Clarke was “going to blow my brains out”.

Clarke told the hostages with one false move and they would all end up “like spaghetti, because our body parts will be all over the floor”.

Mr Steedman said he believed his former friend “wanted to “go out in a blaze of glory”.

As the surrounding area was locked down and members of the public were locked in a nearby Odeon for their safety as armed police moved in.

(PA (PA)

Negotiators were in contact with Clarke throughout the incident but armed police moved in after mistaking a nearby firework for gunfire, rescuing both hostages and arrested their captor.

Clarke, who had drunk vodka and taken painkillers, had texted his older sister before driving to the park, telling her: “I'm going to do something I have thought of since my birthday.”

In mitigation, lawyer Colin Charvill said his client was “not thinking rationally”.

He said Clarke "wanted to engineer a situation where he could talk to his ex-partner,” adding: "He did not intend to physically hurt anyone.”

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told Clarke he “brought terror” to the bowling alley in a bid to be killed by police.

“Your selfish actions have deeply affected many people,” he said. ”You wanted to put into effect your dreadful scheme to commit, as you said, 'suicide by cop'.“

Praising the actions of Warwickshire Police, he said they had been forced to make “life or death” decisions.

Chief Superintendent Alex Franklin-Smith said the incident made headlines around the world and left a lasting impact on the local community.

"This was a planned hostage taking at a place where Clarke knew there would be children present,” he added. "He must have realised the impact his actions would have on his victims and everyone else there.

"Clarke is a dangerous individual and we welcome the length of his sentence. I hope it brings some comfort to the victims and the other people caught up in the incident as they continue to come to terms with what they went through.”

Clarke, of Ryde Avenue, Nuneaton, pleaded guilty to two counts of false imprisonment, possessing a prohibited firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing a samurai sword and a knife.

He also admitted possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause an indictable offence and one count of criminal damage.

Stephen Davies, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ”At the time of the offence there were many young children and families present within the bowling alley and surrounding areas.

“Clarke's actions were not only irresponsible, they left members of the public and emergency services to fear that their lives were in danger. The incident would have been traumatic for all those who were present, and especially the two staff members who were held against their will for four hours. Clarke must now face the consequences of his actions.”

Additional reporting by PA

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