A grieving widower was so desperate to get away from Shetland that he staged a bizarre raid on his local bookie’s shop.
John Millarkie donned balaclava and fake beard and spoke in a mock Irish accent when he burst into Shetland Turf Accountants in Lerwick and demanded cash.
“Stop mucking about John,” replied acting manager Magnus Burgess. Staff thought it was a stunt linked to Up Helly Aa.
But things turned nasty when Millarkie, 55, threatened part-time cashier Tracey Forrester and gashed Mr Burgess’ finger with a swipe of his long knife.
At the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday a judge praised Mr Burgess for fighting back and disarming the would-be robber. “He was a very brave man to do that,” said Lord Uist.
Millarkie – whose wish to leave Shetland was granted when he was taken to Aberdeen Prison to await his case coming to court – was further remanded in custody. He is due back in court to be sentenced in July after background reports have been prepared.
Millarkie pleaded guilty to assaulting the bookies’ shop staff and attempting to rob them of £3090.40 on February 17.
Advocate depute Adrian Cottam said Millarkie was a regular customer at the shop in Merran Moads 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 dog.
The following morning, they were getting the shop ready 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,” said Mr Cottam.
She was not so much frightened as taken aback, said the prosecutor.
“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 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,” said Mr Cottam.
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 police found him sitting in the office smoking a cigarette.
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 was desperate to get away from Shetland and saw the bookie’s as an easy target. He said he had suffered depression since the death of his wife in September 2011 and wanted to get back to Scotland’s Central Belt where he originally came from.