Police investigate alarm to find drunk rugby pro asleep inside restaurant

Edmundo Lounge in Bury St Edmunds Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI

Edmundo Lounge in Bury St Edmunds Picture: MARIAM GHAEMI - Credit: MARIAM GHAEMI

A rugby player was found lying in a drunken stupor in the kitchen of a Suffolk restaurant in the early hours of Christmas Eve.

James Cooke, 25, was handed a 12-month conditional discharge for causing criminal damage to Edmundo Lounge, in Bury St Edmunds, on December 24.

The Rotherham Titans centre, who had returned home to spend Christmas with his father, was found sleeping on the floor after police were alerted to an alarm sounding at about 4.20am.

Cooke admitted the damage but denied burglary with intent to steal, for which a not guilty verdict was passed at Ipswich Crown Court on Wednesday.

Simon Walters, prosecuting, said officers found the doors of the restaurant damaged and entered the kitchen to find Cooke lying on the floor in darkness.

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When roused, Cooke told police: “I’m in trouble. I realise what I’ve done. I’ve been an idiot.”

CCTV footage showed him looking through fridges before passing out on the kitchen floor.

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“He was so drunk, he couldn’t remember what quantity he had consumed,” said Mr Walters.

“He recalled leaving a nightclub, feeling hungry and cold, and recognising the restaurant as somewhere he had eaten before.”

Mr Walters said the offence was committed on drunken impulse for the purpose of finding shelter.

Andrew Thompson, mitigating, said Cooke was previously without conviction but received a caution for drunkenly damaging a nightclub doorman’s radio in 2016.

“One might have hoped that would be his last encounter with the police,” added Mr Thompson, who said there was no clear sign of Cooke having ongoing issues with alcohol and that recent events had caused him grow up.

Rotherham were relegated to the amateur league after a formula decided the season due to the coronavirus pandemic.

When Cooke also lost his role as a university rugby coach due to uncertainty over when the team sport would resume, he volunteered as a hospital porter on the frontline of the crisis, himself contracting Covid-19 and losing a stone in weight.

Mr Walters said Cooke had since been hired as a delivery driver and had returned to Edmundo Lounge to apologise for the incident, which happened during a difficult time with injury.

Judge David Goodin said Cooke’s hooligan-like behaviour was born of stupidity rather than any malice, adding: “From all I’ve read about you, you’re capable of being a bit of a hero, but it’s clear that you and alcohol don’t operate particularly well together.”

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