An ‘apologetic’ gunman who held hostages during a three-hour siege that was captured live on camera has been jailed for four years.
Alistair Gallow, 41, who had recently lost his job and split from his wife, held up a Coral bookmakers and sparked an armed stand off that was filmed by shocked neighbours and posted on social media.
Videos and pictures from the scene, at Grange Road in Jarrow, went viral on the internet as the terrifying town centre drama unfolded.
Newcastle Crown Court heard while scenes of chaos unravelled and armed police gathered outside the town centre shop, inside, the “messed up” gunman apologised for his behaviour and reassured his four hostages that he simply needed help, before releasing them one by one.
During the siege, Gallow allowed one of the men to take a telephone call from his worired sister, who had heard what was happening, and even comforted the anxious caller himself by saying that nobody would be hurt.
When the last hostage left, while armed police waited outside, the former captive told the officers “please don’t hurt him, he needs help”.
Prosecutor Rachel Masters told the court the gunman, who was also carrying a replica sawn-off shotgun, three knives and a knuckle duster, had gone into the shop, where there were two workers and two customers, at 5.40pm on January 8.
Miss Masters said: “He reached inside the top of his pocket and pulled out a sawn-off shotgun, pointed it at the men and told them to lock the doors.”
CCTV from inside the shop was played in court and showed Gallow barge in to the store, where he ordered that the windows were to be covered with paper and the panic alarm was to be activated.
The court heard the cctv camera was unable to be switched off but it was covered before Gallow took out the knives he was carrying.
Miss Masters added: “He told them he wasn’t going to do anything, said he didn’t wish to harm the men.
“He repeatedly apologised for his behaviour and said he had no intention of committing robbery, he was messed up and needed help.”
Miss Masters said the gunman told his hostages that his wife had left him, he had lost his job and had been “forced to do what he was doing” so he could get help.
She added: “He said he would let them go once he got bored.”
The court heard when armed police arrived at the scene due to the panic alarm activation, Gallow opened the door and was abusive before “asking the officers to shoot him”.
Gallow, who was drinking alcohol during the stand-off, then demanded, and received, cigarettes and a lighter, which were delivered to the front door of the shop and picked up by one of the hostages.
The court heard just over two hours after the seige started one of the hostages received a telephone call from his sister.
Miss Masters added: “The defendant allowed him to answer the phone and asked to speak to her.
“The defendant reassured her that her brother was alright and told her no harm would come to him.”
The court heard during the stand-off, Gallow made a number of calls and texts himself, including one saying “death by cop” and “It’s too late”.
Gallow then released three of the men, one by one then left the door open and told the last hostage “get yourself away”.
But Miss Masters added: “He said he wanted to walk out with the defendant.
“The defendant told him the police would not let this happen.”
When the last hostage, who had tried to grab Gallow’s hand to walk out with him, got to the officers outside, he told them “please don’t hurt him, he needs help”.
The court heard the siege had lasted three hours and ten minutes.
The final seconds before Gallow left he shop and was hit with a baton round by police was captured on cctv and played in court.
The 12 gauge, double barrel shotgun was found to be an empty replica.
Police also seized a brown handled pocket knife, a folding knife, a knife in a sheath and a knuckle duster.
The court heard Gallow has previous convictions but had not been in trouble with the police since 2004.
Judge Paul Sloan QC jailed Gallow for four years and said his behaviour put the armed police in an “awful predicament”.
The judge told him: “You told the males in the shop you didn’t wish to harm them, you repeatedly apologised for your behaviour, explained that you had no intention of committing a robbery, that you were messed up and that you needed help.
“You explained to them your wife had left you, you had lost your job and you had been making attempts upon your own life.
“I accept you are genuinely remorseful.
“Nonetheless, these are very serious offences. Those inside the bookmakers were initially shocked and frightened.
“One thought he was going to die.
“While the shotgun was imitation, those at the bookmakers were not to know that.”
The court heard Gallow was assessed as suffering alcohol dependent syndrome, a moderate depressive episode and personality disorder, which led him to view his personal circumstances at the time as “disastrous”.
Gavin Doig, defending, said Gallow, a former engineering company worker, has a supportive family and friends network and has welcomed help from professionals.
Mr Doig said: “Initially at least, all of those four men who were held hostage were undoubtedly fearful for their safety.
“The defendant bitterly regrets that.
“If he were able to turn the clock back, of course he would.”
Mr Doig said Gallow, who put the replica gun down on the counter for the majority of the seige, was in a “sad situation” where he was brought down by a number of factors including alcohol and depressive illness.
Gallow, of Percy Street, Jarrow, pleaded guilty to four counts of false imprisonment, possession of a firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, one charge of possession of an offensive weapon, and three of having a bladed article.
Superintendent Sarah Pitt said: “Gallow’s actions caused a significant amount of disruption to local residents and the local community and I would like to thank them for their support and co-operation while we dealt with the incident and afterwards as we carried out enquiries.
“The support and understanding of our communities is not something we take for granted and very much appreciate and I’m pleased they now get to see justice done. I’d also like to extend my thanks to the officers who dealt with the incident and resolved it quickly and safely and offered reassurance to local residents.”
The video above was shot by Gary Marshall.