Fruit machine raider could face jail

By Stuart Stone

- Last updated on GMT

Repeat offender: thief targeted five pubs across the north-east
Repeat offender: thief targeted five pubs across the north-east

Related tags Fruit machine Cook Theft

A thief who stole thousands of pounds from five bars and social clubs across Northumberland and Tyneside, pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary and was found guilty of a fifth after a trial.

John Cook will appear at Newcastle Crown Court for sentencing on 22 December – where he is expected to face prison.

The 39-year-old broke into five licensed premises between June and November this year, damaged fruit machines and took off with the cash he found inside.

The first site to fall victim to Cook’s spree was the Wallsend Engineers Club, north Tyneside, where he took off with £2,000 in cash in a smash and grab in June. Two months on, Cook took £1,300 from Bedlington Station Social club in Northumberland before leaving the Rose Inn, Wallsend, empty handed in a break-in three days later.

Fifth and final break-in

After another burglary at the Fosse, Wallsend, in September, Cook and an associate targeted the Lochside, High Heaton, Newcastle, on November 26. The pair were interrupted by the landlord when an alarm was triggered. Cook was arrested near the pub after police were called.

James Long, prosecuting, said: “You can imagine the landlord and his wife’s startled state when they saw two males in the bar by the fruit machine, one striking it with a hammer and the other standing to the side.

“They’re challenged and the second offender runs off. The male with the hammer continued to strike the machine.

“The owner had gone down into the premises with his dog in hoping the dog might scare the burglars off. In fact, the defendant then approaches the dog with the hammer, the dog then retreats.

“The remaining offender then helped himself to various items within the fruit machine and made away through a window.”

Mental health and drugs

Mark Richardson, defending, highlighted Cook’s struggles with mental health and drugs. He said: “Some time ago, three of Mr Cook’s good friends died and he’s suffered from depression as a result.

“He’s suffered from heroin addiction in the past and he stopped taking his methadone in May last year, without medical advice.

“Rather than go ‘cold turkey’, he is still dependant on it and it’s forced him to go out and illegally source it. He has been stealing from these pubs and clubs to fund that.”

A court was told that Cook was tracked down following each burglary as a result of leaving either an item of clothing or blood at the scene, or triggering an intruder alarm.

Cook also admitted a separate charge of theft during a hearing at South East Northumberland Magistrates’ Court.

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