Victim targeted at cash machine

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AN attacker knelt on a man’s neck until he handed over £20 – after targeting him at a cash machine.

The 20-year-old victim had just taken £30 out of a cashpoint in Sunderland city centre when he was approached by Michael Clews.

Newcastle Crown Court heard Clews asked him if he wanted a line of cocaine, which the victim misheard.

Believing the stranger had asked for a light, the victim held out his hand expecting Clews to take the lighter off it.

But the court heard the 22-year-old put some powder on to his palm, which the victim brushed off, then demanded £20 in return.

Prosecutor Caroline McGurk said: “The victim tried to run away, but the defendant kicked his legs and he fell to the ground.

“Once on the ground the defendant knelt on his neck.

“He couldn’t breath and began to panic.

“He handed over the £20 and the defendant walked away.”

The victim, who was left bruised, told police after the attack: “I believed this man was going to seriously hurt me and I gave him the money as a result of this fear.”

The court heard that as Clews walked away from the attack, he hurled racist abuse at an Iranian barman who was making his way home through the city.

Clews, of Chestnut Crescent, Marley Pots, admitted theft, common assault and racially-aggravated harassment.

He has a string of previous convictions which include a prior race hate offence.

Judge Guy Whitburn jailed him for 21 months.

The judge said he accepted Clews has a dysfunctional and troubled background, but told him: “It is no excuse for the offences you have committed. It was a nasty theft.”

Sarah Mallett, defending, said Clews has made progress while in custody on remand.

She added: “His remorse and desire to change in future is genuine.”

Twitter: @sunderlandecho