A gambler who lost £400,000 has been spared prison after threatening to set a UK casino on fire, followed by holding a knife to his own neck…
The regular at the Yelverton Road venue had sneaked five litres of fuel into the casino in a bag that he claimed contained a birthday present for a staff member, but once inside his true intentions became apparent.
Bournemouth Crown Court heard that after throwing a coffee table from a first-floor balcony, Abolghassem began shouting threats – telling the manager ‘you have got five minutes to get everyone out’.
When police arrived, a 17-minute standoff ensued, the Bournemouth Echo reporting from court that “PC (William) Martindale conducted a negotiation with the defendant who was seen to be holding a cigarette lighter in one hand.”
With Abolghassem “plainly in a distressed state,” he told police that “his life was done” and “places like this needed to be burned down.”
Although police eventually persuaded the defendant to put the lighter down, he then “pulled a Stanley knife from his pocket which he held to his neck,” according to Tom Evans for the prosecution.
Mr Evans continued:
“Within a couple of minutes PC Martindale calmed him down and arrested him,” with Mr. Abolghassem apologising profusely for his actions.
Ms Hill, his lawyer claiming in court:
“It is the defendant’s gambling addiction, the death of his mother and sister, his health problems, his loss of employment and the effect of lockdown that led to the very desperate state that he was in on the day that he committed the offences. It would appear that these offences were carried out with a misguided attempt to show others that that particular casino was not a good place to visit. He didn’t want others to end up in the sorry state that he was.”
Although Abolghassem was handed a 10-year ban from ‘all gambling premises in the UK’, he was spared a jail sentence. Recorder Oba Nsugbe QC (a Recorder being essentially a part-time judge) sentenced him to 20-months imprisonment, suspended for 2 years.
Mitigation led Nsugbe to comment:
“What I have heard about you, even in the midst of these serious offences, are acts of kindness.”