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Farcical robbery attempt ends in jail

Shetland Turf Accountants where the robbery attempt took place - Photo: ShetNews

A DESPERATE gambler who raided his local bookies’ in Lerwick wearing a “farcical” disguise was jailed for 44 months at the High Court in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

A court heard how 55 year old John Millarkie appeared to be joking when he burst into Shetland Turf Accountants on 17 February, until he gashed the acting manager’s finger with a long knife.

Magnus Burgess won the judge’s praise for his courage in overpowering the would-be robber.

Millarkie told the police he needed cash because he was desperate to get away from the island.

Defending, solicitor advocate John Keenan 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 pleaded guilty to assaulting the bookies’ shop staff and attempting to rob them of £3,090.40.

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 a balaclava and fake beard to burst into the bookies’ early on a Sunday morning.

Staff thought it was an Up Helly Aa style stunt and Burgess had said: “Stop mucking about, John.”

However Millarkie threatened part-time cashier Tracey Forrester with is 20cm blade before gashing Burgess’ finger.

Cottam said Millarkie was a regular customer at the shop in Merran Moads Steps and known to both Burgess and 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 him by one of the staff.

The shop was being prepared to open when there was a knock at the door.

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 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.”

Burgess distracted his assailant by pointing towards a first aid kit and asked for something for his bleeding finger.

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

Millarkie then apologised, surrendered and sat calmly smoking a cigarette while he waited for the police.

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

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.

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.

The lawyer continued: “None of that, of 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.”

The judge’s sentencing statement can be read in full here.

Brian Horne