Booze ban for Sunderland shopkeeper who made knife threats

Juliette Muca and husband Petrit.
Juliette Muca and husband Petrit.
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A KNIFE-WIELDING shopkeeper who threatened to cut a suspected shoplifter’s stomach out has lost his licence to sell booze.

Petrit Muca warned he would kill the customer with a blade he kept behind the counter of his Newsline off-licence in Victoria Place, Millfield, Sunderland, a licensing sub-committe heard.

The incident was caught on CCTV, and the hearing was told Mr Muca’s wife Juliette, 30, a former Tory local election candidate, allegedly attempted to stop police removing the footage, claiming the video was private.

An ensuing search uncovered a 30cm knife and a can of CS gas brought into the country for Mrs Muca’s “protection”.

Mr Muca was given a 12-month supervision order at Newcastle Crown Court after the incident.

The business was also caught selling booze to 15-year-olds in two separate police stings, and a string of other incidents have been recorded at the shop since the couple took over in September 2009.

Now a licensing panel at Sunderland City Council has revoked the Mucas’ alcohol licence at the request of Northumbria Police.

Sarah Howson, licensing co-ordinator for Northumbria Police, said: “The main problem seems to be the premises licence holders who don’t take their responsibility seriously and are a threat to public and customers.

“You’ve seen from the video how Mr Muca showed how he thought things should be dealt with.”

Mrs Muca, however, defended her business and her husband and the committee was presented with letters of support from neighbours and a 97-signature petition from customers backing the couple and their business.

The Mucas’ solicitor, Jon Payne, said the judge at Newcastle Crown Court had “drawn a line” under the knife incident and the “lenient” sentence given to Mr Muca based on full evidence and the couple’s side of the story.

He also pointed out that the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had upheld a complaint in relation to the police’s handling of the incident, which took place on August 1 last year.

Video evidence was shown at a meeting of the council’s licensing sub-committee, held at Sunderland Civic Centre.

It showed Mr Muca shouting a string of swear words and threats while brandishing the knife at a customer he accuses of shoplifting in front of a young girl accompanying him, and Mr Muca’s own wife and baby.

Mrs Muca said her husband was a “good man” and had suffered a breakdown at the time of the incident. She said he was subsequently prescribed with antidepressants.

The couple say they have been victim to a string of incidents of racist abuse, thefts, vandalism and other assaults, including Mrs Muca being spat at. These accounted for many of the police call-outs.

The Mucas made national headlines earlier this month after announcing they were sending their son Aleks to school in Mr Muca’s native Albania.

Mr Payne said the Mucas had now decided to sell the business due to the problems they had suffered.

Both Mrs Muca and her mother were caught selling cans of Fosters to 15-year-old “test purchasers” and received fines as a result.

Mrs Muca claimed in one case she had mistaken the teenager concerned for being an older student she knew well.

She said her mother had made a mistake and had not worked in the shop since.

The licensing committee found in favour of the police.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr Payne said: “We’re very disappointed with this result. We feel the decision was unnecessary for a premises which has such good support from local residents.

“We’re surprised the council relied on evidence provided by the police, particularly because a complaint to the IPCC has been upheld. We are looking at appealing the decision.”

Millfield councillor Paul Dixon said Newsline was one of the few shops in the area he had not received complaints from residents about.

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