Sudbury man admits affray

A MARRIED father-of-one let gas pour out of his cooker while waving a lighter flame during a police siege, a court heard.

Laurence Cawley

A MARRIED father-of-one let gas pour out of his cooker while waving a lighter flame during a police siege, a court heard.

Paul Clarke, 32, yesterday admitted one charge of affray when he appeared before magistrates in Bury St Edmunds.

The court heard how Clarke started drinking on Wednesday morning when he turned on a lodger who lived with him later that day.

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Prosecutor Sarah-Jane Atkins told how Clarke, of Blackfriars in Sudbury, turned on the gas hobs in his kitchen before picking up a kitchen knife and waving it around in front of the lodger. The lodger eventually fled and called in the police.

During the incident, neighbouring homes were evacuated amid fears that the released gas might explode.

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She told how when the police arrived Clarke made slashing motions with the knife, was shrieking loudly and held a lighter with a naked flame inside the house.

When gas engineers entered the house after the incident, they discovered all four hobs were turned on but unlit, she said. Had the windows not have been open, she said, the results could have been tragic.

“This is a serious offence which could have had extremely serious consequences. Officers arrived at the scene and they could see he was still inside the house. He was displaying the knife to the officers and making slashing motions to his body.”

The siege was brought to an end when Clarke opened his front door and threw the “large metal kitchen knife” into a flower bed.

Explaining what happened after the incident, Ms Atkins said: “All four gas hobs were open and they were emitting gas, and had been for some time. In his (the gas engineer's) opinion it was most fortunate the windows were open because the gas was able to escape.”

When he was tested for alcohol, Clarke was found to have 160mcg of alcohol in 100ml of breath - nearly five times the 35mcg legal driving limit.

The court heard how Clarke suffered mental issues, including violent fantasies, and claimed his medication was giving him “blips”. Magistrates were told how Clarke did not intend to hurt anybody but himself and how the incident was a “cry for help”.

Magistrates adjourned the case for three weeks while reports are prepared on his case. He was remanded in custody until May 8.

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