Jail for homeless man who pulled knife at Oxford Tesco Express
A homeless man threatened a Tesco security guard with an “aged” Swiss army knife.
Thomas Garrity later told police he had wanted to pull his phone out of his jacket pocket, but pulled out the lock knife instead.
Prosecutor Cathy Olliver told Oxford Crown Court on Tuesday morning – Garrity’s 34th birthday – that the defendant entered the town center Tesco store on Magdalen Street at 10.30am on October 18.
He walked around the store, putting cleaning supplies into a red plastic bag. He was seen when he picked up one last item – a chocolate bar – and staff went to get the bag for him.
When a security guard went to help store staff, Garrity pulled the knife out of his pocket and reportedly said, “I’m going to kill you.”
Ms Olliver said: ‘The security guard could clearly see the knife next to Mr Garrity.
“The guard immediately took a step back, coming back into the store thinking he would be stabbed if he tried to hold him back.”
Arrested a short time later and questioned by police, he candidly admitted he had gone to Tesco to steal items to raise money for drugs.
He denied threatening to kill the security guard and suggested he had intended to take his phone out of his pocket rather than a knife.
Mitigating, defense attorney Peter du Feu said his client no longer supports the account he gave to police.
Garrity, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty in magistrates court to threatening with a knife, possession of a bladed item and theft.
The court heard he had limited convictions, including stalking his sister and a vagrancy law violation.
The fact that he was not sentenced more heavily is to his credit, Mr du Feu told Judge Michael Gledhill KC on Tuesday. He had spent the past five years living on the streets and using heroin and crack.
Mr. du Feu traced the “complicated journey” of his client. As a child, he went with his parents to France, where he had “a good material but emotionally cold education”.
He had a seven-year relationship and his partner gave birth to their child. “Tragically, her daughter passed away at the age of eight months. That’s really what started [events leading to] where he sits today.
He returned to England after the tragedy. Efforts to reconnect with his family were rebuffed and even led to a stalking conviction, when he left a large number of missed calls trying to get his mother’s number through his sister.
After leaving school without qualifications and spending five years on the streets, he was making the most of his pre-trial detention by taking a number of courses.
Sentencing him, Judge Gledhill said no one could be ‘otherwise sympathetic’ to the way the defendant’s life had unfolded.
“It’s an absolutely dreadful day out there. The weather forecast for the next few days is appalling and the thought of sending you out of this courthouse through a door or worse is even very difficult to contemplate,” he added.
Sending him to jail for 10 months, the judge said he hoped Garrity could spend the time preparing to turn his life around upon his release.
This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as a forensic and crime reporter from Oxfordshire.
To contact him, email: [email protected]
Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward