Man jailed over CS gas death

Published Thursday, 06 December 2012
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A would-be robber who caused the death of a have-a-go-hero pensioner when he sprayed him in the face with CS gas has been jailed for ten years.

Man jailed over CS gas death
Valliday-Smyth was sentenced to ten years in jail. (© UTV)

Sentencing Darren Valliday-Smyth, 22, at Belfast Crown Court, Mr Justice Burgess paid tribute to the efforts of Samuel Crawford in trying to protect his local shop.

"By his actions on this day he is seen as a robust law-abiding citizen, prepared to defend others," said the judge adding that his wife Kathleen and son Gerard had been robbed of a "loving and devoted" husband and father.

Mr Crawford, 65, died as a result of a heart attack induced when he tried to tackle Valliday-Smyth moments after he had tried to rob McGovern's news agency on Cavendish Street in Belfast on in November 2010.

CCTV footage from the incident was played in court on Thursday and in the short video, Valliday-Smyth can be seen loitering outside the shop before bursting in and spraying the CS gas at the female shop attendant and a young customer.

It showed him climb over the shop counter and after freeing the till from its mountings, clamber back over the counter to try and leave the shop.

However members of the public, including Mr Crawford, made valiant attempts to stop Valliday-Smyth from leaving the scene. The pensioner was seen to hit him with his walking stick several times before being sprayed in the face with the gas.

Having collapsed to the ground, the people who were initially trying to stop Valliday-Smyth from leaving can be seen to be looking on aghast whilst trying to summon help on their phones.

Valliday-Smyth, from Clonard Place in Belfast, was arrested a short distance away and although he claimed during police interviews that he had taken so many tablets he could barely remember the incident, he later pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of Mr Crawford, attempted robbery and possessing a prohibited weapon.

Prosecuting lawyer David Russell told the court that an autopsy performed on Mr Crawford found that his heart disease was such that he could have died suddenly at any time but that the altercation with Valliday-Smyth put extra pressure on it and brought on the heart attack which killed him.

Defence QC Gavan Duffy started his plea in mitigation by telling the court that Valliday-Smyth "would like to extend to the Crawford family his deepest sympathies and regrets about what the consequences of his actions and the death of Mr Crawford".

He said that Valliday-Smyth knew he had to tackle his problems of drink and drug abuse but that whilst in custody, he had already taken steps to address those issues.

Jailing him for ten years, Mr Justice Burgess said that despite being confronted by an elderly man, the defendant had chosen to spray him in the face with the noxious gas, showing an "indifference to the consequences of its use".

© UTV News
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