A Somali teenager who came to the UK as a boy refugee after the slaughter of his father, grandfather and other relatives in Africa turned into a desperate street robber when his footballing ambitions were thwarted by the loss of £40 in the post, a court heard today (Tuesday).
Mohammed Bashe, 18, had made the most of his new life in Britain from the age of six and had passed an impressive number of GCSE exams and secured a place in university, Gloucester Crown Court was told.He took on voluntary work, helped care for his disabled younger brother and also made his mark in sport, being selected as a football scholar at Cheltenham, the court heard.
But when he applied to a London club for a trial he had to save up £40 to send with his application – and it never arrived,
It was then that Bashe decided to recoup the money by robbing a schoolboy of his mobile phone, the court was told.
He pretended to have a knife when he held up Matthew Beard in Tuffley Crescent, Gloucester, and took his phone from him.
After hearing of Bashe’s troubled and tragic life, Judge Jamie Tabor QC decided not to jail him immediately.
He sentenced Bashe, of Burns Avenue, Podsmesd, to nine months detention suspended for two years and ordered him to do 200 hours unpaid work. He also placed Bashe under supervision for two years and ordered him to pay his victim £400 compensation as well as £200 costs.
“You were 17 and you were very highly thought of by those who came across you,” said the judge. “Teachers and those you worked with voluntarily speak well of you.
“Your past history had been extremely difficult. But it is incomprehensible that a young man who has been a model at home and an excellent student could have behaved in this disgraceful way.
“It seems to me that it was an aberration. You wanted to have a trial with a London football club and you had sent off £40 in that regard. The money had not arrived. You had had to save that money up and this was the way you thought you could compensate yourself for your loss.
“It was a most extraordinary decision for a young man who had been law abiding for so long. You have let yourself down and you have let your mum down badly,”
Bashe had pleaded guilty to robbing Matthew Beard on October 3 last year and the prosecution did not proceed with a charge of possessing a bladed article.
A jury had been sworn in to try him when he pleaded guilty at the last minute,
The judge told the jury panel: “The defendant is an unusual young man. He is a Somali who came to this country aged six having endured the most hideous life in Somalia – seeing his father and grandfather killed in front of him. He has done fantastically well over here.
“I believe he has passed a number of GCSEs and A-levels and has a place waiting for him at the University of Gloucestershire.
“He is a bright young man and he has probably found it difficult to own up to this offence. He knows that knifepoint robberies mean you have to go to prison. But no knife was found and the prosecution is now not proceeding on that basis. It seems he was probably holding a set of keys pretending he had a knife.
“This is his first offence – he has not blotted his copybook at all before now. I don’t know what he was thinking of when he did this.”
The judge called forward victim Matthew Beard, now also 18, and thanked him for attending court to give evidence.
Matthew told him he, too, has won a university place and will be studying maths at Brighton.
Prosecutor Nick O’Brien read out Matthew’s victim impact statement telling of his shock at being mugged, apparently at knifepoint, in broad daylight.
Matthew stated “The whole incident has scared me. I have never been in such a situation before.
“I thought he was going to stab me so I gave him my phone. I was genuinely in fear for my safety, even my life, because he was stood so calmly pointing a knife at my stomach. I can’t believe how calmly he did this. I hope he is stopped from doing it again in the near future.”
Defence barrister Robert Duvall told the court his family were forced to flee from the civil war in Somalia and en route out of their country to Ethiopia they settled in a camp where the youngest child was born in appalling circumstances.
“That has probably contributed to the physical and intellectual difficulties that boy now has. As a result of that birth the mother was extremely ill and was taken from the camp to Ethiopia and treated and was then sent to London,” he said.
“While in London she was informed that her entire family had been killed at the camp. That is her husband, and three sons. In fact the father had been killed and her grandfather, her sister and a substantial number of other members of the family but the three boys had survived.
“For months she believed her whole family were lost. She then discovered that the boys were alive but it took years for them to be allowed to come to join her here. There had to be DNA tests to ensure they were her children.
“He has been on bail since this incident and there have been no problems. He lives with his mother and helps care for his disabled younger brother,” added Mr Duvall.