A former Commando sniper, who held up a bank, claiming he had a gun, has been shown mercy after a judge heard of his troubled background.
William Gage joined the Army aged just 16 to escape his unhappy home life but during his 11 years service saw horrific sights that added to his psychiatric problems.
And his situation has been further exacerbated by being allegedly throttled in his cell by another prisoner while awaiting last week’s hearing.
Liverpool Crown Court heard on July 10 that Gage had to lie on the floor of the cell all night pretending to be dead until prison officers discovered what had happened. His attacker now faces an attempt murder charge and Gage’s lawyers are considering civil action against the jail.
Gage, 37, pleaded guilty to robbing the Co-op bank of £4,000, burglary of his girlfriend’s home and handling stolen goods.
Gage, a guitarist, met his girlfriend, Julie Peel, an estate agent manger, while playing with Billy Bragg at Glastonbury and despite his criminal behaviour the court heard she is standing by him.
William Beardmore, prosecuting, said that on October 22 last year Miss Peel returned to her home in Up Holland and found that an intruder had stolen her television and dvd player. Their relationship had been going through a difficult phase at that time.
The following month police went to her home and discovered a pair of trainers which had been stolen in another burglary and Gage later admitted handling those items.
He was bailed for those offences on November 11 and the very next day went into the Co-operative Bank in Market Street, Wigan, and handed over a note to a woman cashier.
In it he wrote, “I have a loaded pistol, don’t make a fuss, any noise, any alarms or I’ll shoot everyone and myself. I have nothing to lose.”
He handed her a brown envelope and after she handed over £4,000 in £20 notes he said, “that’s enough” and left, said Mr Beardmore.
Jailing him for a total of 20 months Recorder Stephen Bedford, said that some members of the public pay little regard to what those in the
military are exposed to while protecting people subjected to terrorism and atrocity.
He said: “That is something you have clearly had to face and that demands a price, you have clearly struggled for a number of years to come to terms with the horror you have experienced.
“I have seen a psychiatric report and clearly you need treatment as a matter of some urgency.”
Gage, of Mayfield Road, Up Holland, West Lancashire, has been on remand for almost eight months and is likely consequently to be released within two months.