22nd February 2018
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Forty-four month jail sentence for man who raided Lerwick betting shop

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A desperate depressed gambler who raided his local bookies’ wearing a “farcical” disguise was jailed for 44 months yesterday.

A court heard how John Millarkie appeared to be joking, until a swipe of his long knife gashed the finger of acting manager.

Sentencing Millarkie, 55, a judge praised the bravery of Magnus Burgess who fought back and overpowered the would-be robber. Millarkie then calmly sat and smoked a cigarette as he waited for police to come and take him away.

When they questioned him about the robbery attempt at Shetland Turf Accountants in Lerwick, Millarkie said he needed cash because he was desperate to get away from the islands.

At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, solicitor advocate John Keenan, defending, said Millarkie was also a gambler who had frittered away a significant amount of money and whose depression had worsened since his wife died at the end of 2011 after a long illness.

Millarkie, whose last address given was Brevik Cottages in Lerwick, pleaded guilty to assaulting the bookies’ shop staff and attempting to rob them of £3,090.40 on 17th February.

Judge Lord Uist told him: “You went there dressed in a farcical, amateur disguise and adopting a false Irish accent. It was only because Mr Burgess very courageously physically tackled you and summoned police that you did not succeed in carrying out a robbery of £3,000.

“Mr Burgess is to be highly commended for his bravery.”

Advocate depute Adrian Cottam, prosecuting, described how Millarkie donned balaclava and fake beard to burst into the bookies’ early on a Sunday morning.

“Stop mucking about John,” Mr Burgess replied. Staff thought it was a stunt linked to Shetland’s Up-Helly-A’ festival.

Millarkie then threatened part-time cashier Tracey Forrester with his 20cm blade before gashing Mr Burgess’ finger.

Mr Cottam said Millarkie was a regular customer at the shop, in Merran Moad’s Steps, and known to both Mr Burgess and Ms Forrester.

The day before the robbery attempt Millarkie had asked them what time the shop opened on a Sunday and said he would be along to show them his pet dog, previously given to him by one of the staff. The shop was being prepared for opening to punters when there was a knock at the door.

Ms Forrester unbolted the door and began to open it. “At this point the door was pulled from her grip and the accused rushed past her, waving a knife at her,” Mr Cottam said.

She was not so much frightened as taken aback, the prosecutor said. “Mr Burgess thought it was a joke as he immediately recognised the accused from the way he carried himself and because of a distinctive stoop which he has.”

Millarkie began swearing and demanding money.

Mr Cottam said: “Mr Burgess reached towards the accused with his right hand, at which time the accused swiped at him with the knife, cutting the little finger on his right hand and causing it to bleed.

“He also jabbed at Mr Burgess with the knife, causing a superficial laceration and a small red mark to his abdomen.”

Millarkie was distracted when Mr Burgess pointed towards a first aid kit and asked for something for his bleeding finger.

Mr Burgess grabbed Millarkie’s knife hand and pushed it towards his face, causing him to stumble. He then used his full weight to push Millarkie against a filing cabinet, pulling off his balaclava and beard. Millarkie then apologised and surrendered.

A passing motorist had called for help, describing Ms Forrester as “panicking, in a state of shock and trying to hold back tears”.

Mr Cottam said Millarkie told questioning police officers he wanted to get back to Scotland’s Central Belt where he originally came from, and saw the bookies’ as an easy target.

His wish to leave was granted when he was taken to Aberdeen prison to await the outcome of the court hearings.

Mr Keenan said: “It was clearly an offence which had very little prospect of success and seems to have been committed by the accused against a background of some emotional turmoil.

“None of that, on course, excuses this offence but it may put it in some sort of context and it may explain the rather bizarre nature of the crime.”

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