‘Suicide-by-cop’ hostage-taker jailed for 12 years
David Clarke, 53, put a sawn-off shotgun to the back of one man’s head during the stand-off at a bowling alley.
A man seized terrified hostages during a four-hour armed siege at a bowling alley in a “suicide by cop” bid, a court has heard.
David Clarke went to the MFA Bowl complex in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, where both he and and his ex-girlfriend worked, still struggling over the breakdown of their relationship.
A judge sentenced the father-of-two to 12 years in jail, after hearing that the defendant had wanted to go out in what prosecutors called “a blaze of glory”.
The “angry and volatile” 53-year-old, armed with a knife, a samurai sword, and a fake sawn-off shotgun, seized two hostages, sending other terrified customers, including children as young as five, fleeing for safety.
He used the male hostages as “human shields” when facing off against armed police, a prosecutor told court, also telling them one false move and they would all end up “like spaghetti, because our body parts will be all over the floor”.
Jailing Clarke at Warwick Crown Court on Friday, Judge Andrew Lockhart QC told him: “On the afternoon of Sunday October 22, you brought terror to the MFA Bowl.
“Your selfish actions have deeply affected many people.”
The Recorder of Coventry, finding him to be a dangerous offender, added: “You wanted to put into effect your dreadful scheme to commit, as you said, ‘suicide by cop’.”
He extended Clarke’s period on licence by five years.
During the ordeal, which started at 2.23pm on the Sunday afternoon, Clarke held a 2ft-long “kukri-type knife” to the throat of one person.
Putting the decommissioned shotgun to the head of another man and ordering him to obey his commands, he told him: “You ain’t making it out of here, you ain’t going to see tomorrow.”
Graham Russell, prosecuting, said: “He went there and had armed himself with a disarmed shotgun, a samurai-type sword and the knife.
“When he went there he must have had the intention to use those weapons to terrify those there.”
Before the incident, Clarke, who had drunk vodka and taken painkillers, texted his older sister in some distress, telling her: “I’m going to do something I have thought of since my birthday.”
The siege began when Clarke went to the bowling alley bar and spoke to his friend, duty manager and work colleague Josh Steedman.
There, Clarke first had a drink, and then told Mr Steedman “Right, its time”, before pulling the shotgun out of a carrier bag, sparking panic.
Mr Steedman, from a conversation with Clarke, believed his friend wanted to “go out in a blaze of glory”, according to Mr Russell.
Clarke told his friend if his ex-partner’s new boyfriend turned up, he would “sink the knife” into the man and “decapitate him”.
Mr Steedman was also forced outside by the hostage-taker to fetch a samurai sword from Clarke’s car, but went back inside because he was worried about his junior colleague and fellow hostage, a 17-year-old, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
That employee, who still has flashbacks about the incident, had the gun held to his back and waist during the ordeal, while “volatile” Clarke ran around engaged in “gratuitous and wanton” destruction of the interior.
He bent him over a pool table and threatened to cut off his arm, with the victim saying he felt Clarke was “going to blow my brains out”.
The stand-off, in which armed police used distraction grenades, eventually ended at about 6.30pm when a nearby firework was mistaken for a shot having been fired.
When armed officers stormed the bowling alley, Clarke was arrested, but not before he once again held his knife to Mr Steedman’s throat.
Clarke, of Ryde Avenue, Nuneaton, previously pleaded guilty to two counts of false imprisonment, possessing a prohibited firearm with intent to cause fear of violence and possessing a samurai sword and a knife.
He also admitted possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause an indictable offence and one count of criminal damage.
Colin Charvill, in mitigation, said: “He wanted to engineer a situation where he could talk to his ex-partner.
“But he did not intend to physically hurt anyone.”
He added: “He was not thinking rationally, he was acting in a most bizarre way.”