Sidmouth vigilante jailed for staffie attack

Exeter-Crown-Court

- Credit: Archant

A vigilante attacker has been jailed for setting his Staffordshire bull terrier on two men he suspected of stealing a valuable ring from his Sidmouth home.

Michael O’Donnell and his friend Nicholas Jeffries threw a child’s scooter through the front window of a house in Howarth Close and climbed inside to attack victim Shaun Leat.

They accused him of being a grass, a drug dealer and organising the theft of a £2,500 ring from O’Donnell’s home in a neighbouring street before attacking him.

Both men hit Mr Leat while a second man who was staying at his house barricaded himself in a room and armed himself with a knife and an axe.

Police arrived to find both men and the dog outside the house still shouting abuse, Exeter Crown Court was told.


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O’Donnell had drink and drug problems and went on to carry out a racist attack at a Turkish-run fast food shop and to molest a 19-year-old girl on a bus.

During the incident at Pizza Pronto in Radway Place he spat at owner Yasar Oflaz and repeatedly shouted Turkish and anti-Muslim abuse.

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O’Donnell, 46, of Lock Close, Sidmouth, admitted causing actual bodily harm to Mr Leat, affray, sexual assault, racially aggravated common assault and religiously aggravated harassment and threatening behaviour.

Jeffries, 52, of Lancelot Road, Exeter, admitted assault occasioning actual bodily harm and affray.

O’Donnell was jailed for a total of 13 months and Jeffries for nine months by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC.

Both are likely to be released within days because of time already spent in custody and on tagged curfew.

Mr James Taghdissian, prosecuting, said O’Donnell knew Mr Leat as a neighbour but relations between them deteriorated when a vulnerable adult named David Tape, who had been staying with him, moved to Mr Leat’s house.

O’Donnell believed Mr Leat was involved with drugs and had encouraged Mr Tape to take a ring which had belonged to his late mother from his home. There was also bad blood between Jeffries and Mr Leat, who had been seeing his ex partner.

Mr Taghdissian said both men went to Howarth Close shortly after midnight on April 11 this year and police were called after neighbours heard shouting and breaking glass as the scooter was thrown through the main window.

He said: “Local residents heard both defendants shouting ‘I’m going to kill you’, ‘grass’ and saying they wanted the ring back.

“They were extremely violent and weapons were used to enter the property and inside it.

“Mr Leat had a piece of wood and a cosh to defend himself and O’Donnell was accompanied by his Staffordshire bull terrier and shouted for the dog to attack Mr Leat.

“Mr Tape barricaded himself in a room with an axe and a knife which meant they focussed their attention on Mr Leat and used weapons to assault him. From the injuries he received it would seen these included the dog.”

O’Donnell told police he believed Mr Leat was a drug dealer who had encouraged Mr Tape to steal the ring.

Jeffries said he had gone with O’Donnell to the house where they were threatened with a knife, axe and plank of wood during the fracas.

O’Donnell was bailed and carried the racially and religiously aggravated offences in late May and June when he repeatedly shouted abuse. He later told police he was not a racist.

Two weeks later he got onto a bus in Sidmouth drunk and sat next to a 19-year-old shop worker who he touched while making sexual comments which left her distressed and in tears.

Mr Rupert Taylor, for O’Donnell, said he became involved with drink and drugs as a result of the break up of a relationship and losing his job.

He said he has addressed his drink and drug problems while in custody awaiting sentence. He wishes to apologise for his behaviour, which he blames on his intoxicated state.

Mr Warren Robinson, for Jeffries, said he has no recent history of violence and plans to move away from Devon and work in the construction industry when he is released.

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