A HOMELESS man who robbed a McDonald's by claiming he had a gun has been spared prison.

Bradford Crown Court heard that Samuel Watkinson shouted “Empty the f***ing till! Don’t make me pull the gun out!” at the shift manager of McDonald's in Ingleby Road, Bradford in the early hours of Christmas Eve 2022.

Prosecutor Andrew Horton said staff initially thought it was a joke until Watkinson started shouting and screaming.

They were then convinced to hand over the till drawer. Watkinson, who was wearing a hat and lower face covering, grabbed more than £90 in cash and ran off.

He was chased by a man and his friends in a car who recovered a bag from him although Watkinson got away.

In the bag was found a glove, which had his DNA on it.

Five weeks later at 7pm on January 30, 2023, Watkinson went into a branch of William Hill in Shipley.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: William HillWilliam Hill (Image: PA)

He adopted the same ploy as before, saying, “Open the drawer. I’ve got a gun in my pocket”, prompting the manager to hit the panic button.

Watkinson fled but he was recognised from CCTV footage as a regular customer who had been in the branch earlier that day.

Both victims said they were left “scared” and “shaken” by what had happened.

Watkinson was arrested on March 10, 2023. Data on his mobile phone put him in the area of the McDonald's restaurant. In an interview with police, he claimed not to remember the incidents due to his cannabis use.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: McDonald'sMcDonald's (Image: Google Street View)

He later pleaded guilty to robbery and attempted robbery but denied mentioning a gun.

'He presented a rather comical and pathetic figure'

Mitigating for Watkinson, 25, of Burnsall Road, Brighouse, Vince Blake-Barnard said the “pathetic” robbery attempts took place when Watkinson was just 23 and was “a very emotionally immature young man”.

He said Watkinson had struggled with a range of problems including a difficult upbringing and was homeless at the time of the incidents. His intake of cannabis had become “substantial” due to a family bereavement, he was in “a mental crisis state”, and he had drifted into his offending.

He added: “This is not an individual that had a gun. It was purely a fiction. It was probably just a hand in the pocket.

“He clearly presented a rather comical and pathetic figure.

“This is just a desperate individual just trying to get some money to tick along while he was homeless.”

Sentencing Watkinson, Mr Recorder Abdul Iqbal said he was persuaded by the improvements in Watkinson’s life, including having a home, a job, and being clean of drug abuse, to not jail him immediately.

Instead, he handed him a two-year prison sentence suspended for two years.

Judge's comments as he sentenced Watkinson

He said: “Many people who might read these sentencing remarks in the press would think it unacceptable that a judge did not send a person like you immediately to prison today. And it may be that you have to go to prison at some stage for this offending.

“But I am prepared to give you this opportunity to be supervised by the probation service to see if what has been described as genuine remorse really is genuine remorse.

“I think there is a reasonable prospect of rehabilitation and so I suspend these sentences.”

Watkinson was ordered to carry out 250 hours of unpaid community work and to undertake ten rehabilitation activity requirement days.

He was also ordered to take part in a six-month drug rehabilitation scheme and to pay £200 each to the two men he threatened plus prosecution costs of £500 and a victim surcharge of around £100.