Knifeman terrorised neighbours fearing he was about to be kidnapped after drink and drug binge when he was bored in lockdown

A knifeman caused terror to his neighbours when he became convinced he was about to be kidnapped after a lockdown binge on drink and drugs.

Wednesday, 19th August 2020, 12:03 pm
Lee Rutter.

Lee Rutter, who had taken alcohol and cocaine, set off the fire alarms at his apartment block, containing 48 flats, on July 11 then confronted his evacuated neighbours with a knife and a crowbar.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 35-year-old had previously warned one resident at Weardale House, Washington, he would "chop her head off".

Prosecutor Emma Atkinson said Rutter approached the same woman during the midnight evacuation and added: "She heard someone say 'he's got a knife and blood on his face.

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The case was heard at Newcastle Crown Court.

"She saw the defendant, saw the knife in one hand and a crowbar in the other.

"Clearly, because of the previous incident, she was frightened when she saw him.

"She went towards her car and describes the defendant approached her, screaming and gesticulating, weapons raised above his head."

The court heard the woman moved away from the scene in her car and Rutter "charged" towards another resident and threw the knife at his vehicle, causing damage.

Miss Atkinson said the residents described being "extremely frightened", "absolutely petrified", "terrified" and "distressed" by Rutter's "bizarre" behaviour.

Glenn Gatland, defending, said Rutter had lead a relatively "blameless" life working for a construction company but had "self medicated" with cocaine due to personal problems.

Mr Gatland added: "Since the Covid lockdown, he couldn't continue working, he had no work, he was in a small flat, he had no garden, he had nothing to do.

"He was living on his own and the matters just began to go around and around inside his head and as a consequence of that he then had some drink and he started taking cocaine again.

"The result of the cocaine and drink then led him to believe on that night that people were trying to kidnap him so he armed himself to stop his perceived kidnappers and he set the fire alarm to try and get people out so that they couldn't kidnap him.

"That's when he went into the car park and behaved in this very bizarre way.

"Happily, he didn't actually attack anybody, it was his perceived belief that the others were going to attack him and it was his attempt to get rid of his, what he thought were, kidnappers."

Mr Gatland said Rutter is "extremely ashamed" of his behaviour and has got a job in custody on remand, found new accommodation and sought help to rehabilitate himself.

Rutter pleaded guilty to affray, criminal damage, possessing an offensive weapon and possessing a bladed article.

Mr Recorder Craig Hassall sentenced him to 26 months behind bars with a five-year restraining order to keep him away from the flats.

The judge said: "Serious fear must have been caused in what must have been a terrifying incident for those who witnessed it."

The judge said Rutter had a form of "psychotic episode" and told him: "You had a paranoid belief people were trying to kidnap you so you set of the fire alarm to try and get the people out so you would not be kidnapped."

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