Sunderland man jailed after foiled April Fools' Day burglary and Farm Foods sock raid

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Lee John Sewell.Lee John Sewell.
Lee John Sewell.

A drug and alcohol abuser who struck fear into a shop worker by producing a snooker ball in a sock and burgled Sunderland’s university has been jailed for 37 weeks.

Lee Sewell, 42, briefly displayed the DIY offensive weapon when challenged at a city Farm Foods outlet after he left without paying for stock.

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Sewell, of Elstree Square, Carley Hill, did not use it to attack and quickly pocketed it but its presence equated to a threat, a court heard.

But the confrontation did result in a physical struggle – and he then racially abused a policeman after his arrest on Thursday, November 23, prosecutor Olivia Randell said.

And on April Fool’s Day, Sewell and a pal forced their way into the University of Sunderland’s North Shore Building at its St Peter’s Campus, sparking a security alert.

He was grappled to the ground and detained by a guard after claiming to be there to use a toilet - while his unidentified friend raised a crowbar to threaten and escaped on foot.

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Ms Randell told magistrates in South Tyneside: “The defendant had been in Farm Foods and was stopped when suspected of being a shoplifter.

“He was confrontational and refused to hand over the items that he had. There was a struggle between him and the employee.

“He had a sock with a ball in it, which is the basis of the plea. That is that he didn’t use the sock at any point.

“He put it in his pocket but just having it would have threatened. He did later confirm that he pushed the staff member once.”

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Sewell racially abused the PC while being removed from a police van after being taken to the Southwick station, Ms Randell said.

Of the burglary, she added: “A security guard heard the alarm and he and a colleague went to the rear of the building.

“They could see that the door had been forced open and could see two figures and torchlights.

“A male said that they were there to use the toilet. A male, not the defendant, was carrying a crowbar which was waved towards the guards.

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“When taken outside, they tried to get away, but a guard took him to the ground. The other man got away.”

Sewell pleaded guilty to burglary, racially aggravated harassment alarm or distress, theft from a shop, assault by beating and offensive weapon possession.

Annalisa Moscardini, defending, said Sewell’s offending was directly linked to his “drug and alcohol abuse”.

She added: “The burglary was not particularly well-planned. It was opportunistic and was alerted quite quickly by the alarm.

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“Mr Sewell has had problems with alcohol and drugs. His offences have been to do with this problem. He is keen to address them.”

Appearing via video link from HMP Durham, Sewell was jailed for 16 weeks for burglary and 21 consecutive weeks for the offensive weapon.

He received concurrent sentences of four weeks each for the racial offence and assault and two weeks for theft.

Sewell must pay compensation of £100 to a security guard, £50 each to the university and the policeman, and £20 to Farm Foods, with a £187 victim surcharge and £170 court costs.

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