Man sentenced after attempted robbery of Durham student

By Waseem Mohamed

A 30-year old man was sentenced at Durham Crown Court on 31st March following the attempted robbery of a Durham University student on 20th November last year. According to Chronicle Live, Warren Pearce had “grabbed a student by her throat and dragged her into bushes” during the attempted robbery.

Pearce, of Ashton Street in Peterlee, faced charges of attempted robbery and possession of cannabis. Pearce had already pleaded guilty to these charges at a previous hearing.

The court heard details of the incident from prosecutor Nigel Soppitt. He explained that the Asian student was walking from Trevelyan College towards Durham city centre at around 10.30am, when the incident took place. He told the court that “She was listening to her device using headphones and the defendant approached her and was saying something. She couldn’t hear him so removed her headphones.

“The defendant asked her for her papers to show she was entitled to stay in the UK. She offered the defendant her passport and her British residency permit. The defendant stated they should go to a quiet place and they walked a short distance where the defendant scrutinised the documents.

“He demanded money whilst dragging her further and further away to an area of bushes”

nigel soppitt

Mr Soppitt then told of how Pearce pretended to make a phone call while checking the documents, before threatening the student “to lock her up” because he claimed her documents were fake. The student offered to take Pearce to her college reception to verify the documents, but Pearce, who himself appeared “agitated and anxious”, continued to make further threats about locking the student up.

The student became “more and more anxious” and considering running away when Pearce “grabbed her round the neck and put his hand around her mouth”. Mr Soppitt described how “the defendant told her to be quiet or he would take her to a place where no one would hear her. He then demanded money whilst dragging her further and further away to an area of bushes. He wrapped his arms around her and pulled her from behind, the victim cried for help and said ‘please don’t hurt me’.”

At this stage, the court heard about two male students who were passing-by in the area, and how they heard the student’s cry for help and saw her being dragged away. The court heard how the two male students “charged” towards Pearce, who let the student go and ran towards the two male students instead to “intimidate them”. Upon seeing that the two students were not scared of him, Pearce ran away from the scene.

The affected student was safely escorted back to her college while the police were called. Pearce was arrested an hour and a half after the incident took place, and while he was arrested he admitted to trying to rob the student and apologised for his actions.

“[The attempted robbery] could and would have gone further had it not been for the two brave students”

thomas moran

The court also learnt at how Pearce has been released from Durham police station on the morning of the attempted robbery, following an investigation into another matter. Pearce has 23 previous convictions for 43 offences, including kidnap, assault and affray. The court also heard that Pearce told police officers that he had “smoked so much cannabis that his evil side, [called] Geoff, had taken over and his body blacked out”. Pearce has been taking Valium and was drinking alcohol around the time of the incident.

Defending on Pearce’s behalf, Chris Baker told the court that his main mitigation was his guilty plea, saying that “he understands that given the evidence before the court, that there’s a significant likelihood that your honour will find him a dangerous offender. It is clear he does have mental health issues and that he’s a vulnerable man. He has a long history of significant self harm and determined attempts at suicide whilst in custody. At the moment he’s seeking assistance for his issues.”

However, Recorder Thomas Moran decided to sentence Pearce, saying that the attempted robbery “could and would have gone further had it not been for the two brave students who became involved”. Moran said that Pearce “selected” the student as his victim and must have been “very convincing” when he asked the student for her papers.

Pearce has been given an extended prison sentence of sever years and eight months. Trevelyan Welfare team have been contacted for comment.

Image: Geograph

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