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Addict who brutally attacked pensioner jailed for four years

NewsBy Karl Doyle
Katie Cutler, who helped raised thousands of pounds for Alan Barnes, is comforted by him
Katie Cutler, who helped raised thousands of pounds for Alan Barnes, is comforted by him

A drug addict whose sickening attack on a 4ft 6in pensioner caused outrage around the world has been jailed for four years after admitting trying to mug his visually-impaired victim.

Well-wishers who were moved by the plight of 67-year-old Alan Barnes raised £330,000 for him within days of Richard Gatiss's cowardly assault.

The 25-year-old pushed Mr Barnes over as he put out the bins, breaking his collar bone. Gatiss was desperate for money to buy so-called legal highs when he tried to mug him.

He was jailed at Newcastle Crown Court after previously admitting assault with intent to rob.

Judge Paul Sloan QC said: "I have no doubt he was picked on by you because of his vulnerability.

It was on any view a despicable offence."

Gatiss, from Split Crow Road, Gateshead, was caught after police retrieved DNA evidence from the pocket on Mr Barnes's jacket.

He had run off empty handed from the mugging when Mr Barnes shouted for help.

While on remand, Gatiss was kept in segregation for his own safety due to the strong feelings his attack caused even among convicted criminals.

Mr Barnes, who was too scared to move back to his home in Low Fell, Gateshead, after the mugging, will buy a new house with the money raised online.

The fund was set up by local beautician Katie Cutler, 21, who initially hoped to raise £500, enough to buy new carpets or curtains.

But the appeal went viral and his family called a halt when the total reached £330,000. Many donors also left messages expressing their disgust that such a vulnerable man could be attacked.

Mr Barnes's disabilities were caused when his mother contracted German measles during pregnancy.

He and Ms Cutler plan to use their new high profile to launch a foundation with the aim of raising £1 million for good causes.

Gatiss, who has a tattooed neck, with hair curly on top and short at the sides, did not visibly react when he was sentenced. He had wept during previous court hearings.

Nick Dry, prosecuting, said Mr Barnes's disabilities led medics to believe his life expectancy was just nine years when he was born, but despite those problems, which meant he was unable to work, he was intelligent and had lived independently.

For more than six years he had lived in a housing complex for elderly and disabled people in a cul-de-sac.

Gatiss had failed to withdraw £10 from a cashpoint when he spotted Mr Barnes outside his bungalow on the evening of January 25.

Mr Barnes said he was aware of a shape coming towards him in the darkness and heard a man demand money.

Gatiss pushed the top of the frail pensioner's head, forcing him to the floor, and rummaged through his pockets, Mr Dry said.

The broken collar bone stopped him washing or eating by himself.

Mr Dry said: "These restrictions he found extremely frustrating, impacting as they did on his fierce independence."

The bone has since healed well, the court heard.

After he was arrested, Gatiss denied being involved saying he had been brought up better than that, then claimed a knifeman made him do it.

When he was challenged, he confessed and Mr Dry said: "He said he wanted money to buy legal highs to which he had become addicted, then breaking down, he was distressed at what he had done."