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Knife-wielding Benson pub raiders jailed for 20 years
KNIFE-WIELDING masked burglars tied up and blindfolded a pub chef before threatening to slit his throat in a terrifying night time raid.
Benjamin Sinclair and Thomas Somarakis were yesterday sentenced to a total of 20 years in prison for the crimes at the Three Horseshoes pub in Benson.
The thieves were arrested after they fled the 17th century pub in a stolen car, leading police on an 80mph chase before the pair crashed, flipping the vehicle on to its roof.
Last night, their victim Daniel Merritt told the Oxford Mail he thought he was going to die in the attack, which happened last July. Sinclair, 23, and Somarakis, 21, smashed through a kitchen window before arming themselves with knives and black tape, Reading Crown Court heard.
The pair, bandanas covering their faces, burst into 22-year-old Mr Merritt’s bedroom at about 2.30am. His arms were then bound and his eyes covered with tape.
After searching the pub they tied their prisoner to a chair and demanded cash.
Lesley Bates, prosecuting, said Sinclair held his knife to Mr Merritt’s throat and said: “Don’t make me slit your throat.”
She said: “He was angry and threatened Mr Merritt causing him to fear he would be very seriously hurt, if not killed, if he did not comply.”
The chef was punched in the face and stamped on, the court heard. The raiders left their victim tied up, stealing cash from the till, a laptop and a sports bag. They found the keys to a Suzuki Vitara behind the bar and drove off.
At 3.40am a police officer saw the car speeding on the A4074 and drove at 80mph to catch it.
But the getaway car crashed and rolled down a bank. The pair ran from the wreckage but were arrested near Wallingford Bridge.
Mr Merritt was found taped to the chair by a police officer patrolling the area later that night.
Peter Du Feu, defending Sinclair, said his client was going to use his prison time “constructively” to become a “better person”.
Abigail Husbands, defending Somarakis, said her client had taken ketamine before the raid, adding: “There was no sophistication or organisation in this offence.”
Judge Bruce McIntyre, sentencing, said: “You committed dreadful offences.
“You broke into his home where he was entitled to feel safe. You tied him up with tape, you tied him so he couldn’t move, you tied him so he couldn’t see.
“You had him in fear for his life. And perhaps most chilling of all, you seemed to find the whole thing amusing.”
Both were guilty of aggravated burglary, false imprisonment, possession of a blade and aggravated vehicle taking.
Sinclair was convicted after a three-day trial in December but Somorakis pleaded guilty. Sinclair, of Blue Mountains, Wallingford, was sentenced to 12 years and banned from driving for five. Somarakis, of Radnor Road, Wallingford, was jailed for eight years and banned from driving for four.
Investigating officer Det Con Paul Reece said: “This was a very nasty incident which had a profound and long lasting effect on the victim.”
DANIEL Merritt thought his throat would be sliced open if he moved a millimetre when the knife was held against his neck, Reading Crown Court heard.
In a victim impact statement the chef described the raid as “the worst experience of his entire life” and said he had never been so scared.
He said: “I felt a knife being held to my throat. I thought one sideways movement, even a millimetre or two, would slice my throat open.”
The 22-year-old, who worked and lived above the pub before the attack, has suffered from depression since. The court heard he had been sacked by pub manager Glenn Walker as he struggled to return to work.
Prosecutor Lesley Bates said: “At some stage he was dismissed from his position which not only left him out of work but also homeless.”
The court also heard that when asked why he had sacked his head chef, Mr Walker said: “Who I employed has nothing to do with the court.”
And Miss Bates said: “He said there were issues with his standard of work.”
After the hearing, Mr Merritt said he was “very happy” with the sentences.
Mr Walker was not available for comment last night.