A gunman who took hostages during a four-hour siege at a bowling alley in a “suicide by cop” bid has been jailed for 12 years.
David Clarke was armed with a sawn-off shotgun, knives and a samurai sword when he burst into MFA Bowl in Nuneaton, Warwickshire and demanded to see his ex-girlfriend at 2.23pm on 22 October last year.
Warwick Crown Court heard the 53-year-old, who worked there along with his former partner, wanted to go out in what prosecutors called “a blaze of glory” after struggling with the breakdown of their relationship.
After storming in the “angry and volatile” Clarke – who had drunk vodka and taken painkillers before the incident – seized two hostages, sending horrified customers, including children as young as five, running for safety.
The court heard that during the ordeal – which did not end until 6.30pm – he put the shotgun to the back of a man’s head and told him: “If you don’t go, you are not going to see tomorrow.”
Clarke used the male hostages as “human shields” when confronted by armed police, telling them that one false move would mean they all ended up “like spaghetti, because our body parts will be all over the floor”, the trial was told.
Sentencing Clarke, judge Andrew Lockhart QC told him: “On the afternoon of Sunday, October 22, you brought terror to the MFA Bowl.
“Your selfish actions have deeply affected many people.”
He added: “You wanted to put into effect your dreadful scheme to commit as you said ‘suicide by cop’.
“It was planned hostage-taking in a place you knew where children would be present.”
The Recorder of Coventry, finding him to be a dangerous offender, added: “You wanted to put into effect your dreadful scheme to commit, as you said, ‘suicide by cop’.”
He extended Clarke’s period on licence by five years.