Wannabe thief ‘bit and spat at’ Rustington Sainsbury’s security guard

The Sainsbury's in Rustington. Picture: Google Maps SUS-161222-112045001
The Sainsbury's in Rustington. Picture: Google Maps SUS-161222-112045001

A 31-year-old wannabe thief spat and bit a security guard after trying to steal an iPad from Sainsbury’s, a court heard yesterday.

At Hove Crown Court on Thursday, Eli Cooper, 31, from South Coast Road, Peacehaven, was sentenced for a string of crimes across West and East Sussex.

Among them was the incident on October 8, 2017 at the Sainsbury’s superstore in Rustington. According to prosecutor Giles Morrison, Cooper went to the store shortly before midday, where he was seen by an off-duty police officer to rip off the label tag from some pliers and then go to the iPad stand, where he tried to cut the security tag off one of the Apple tablets.

Cooper was challenged by the officer as Eli was about to leave the store, at which point he ran off. He was tripped up by staff by the exit, and was caught and detained outside by two security guards.

Mr Morrison said Cooper spat at one of the security guards, hit him with small rocks and bit him on the right arm.

He was arrested and later charged for assault by beating and attempted theft.

In his police interview, he made no comment in relation to the theft, but denied hitting anyone with rocks, Mr Morrison said.

He told police that when he was detained, ‘they pushed his face into the ground and were twisting his wrist, causing him a lot of pain’.

He added that he had an ‘injured wrist’ and ‘bit the male to stop him hurting him’.

Representing Eli, Alexandra Scott said the incident was ‘deeply unpleasant and regrettable’. Describing her client’s criminal credentials, she said: “He isn’t very good at it, to put it that bluntly. He is slightly put off of the criminal lifestyle because he knows he isn’t very good at it.”

She added that Eli, who has been in custody since his latest arrest, has been taking Spice, a ‘very destructive drug’, in prison. She said he ‘wasn’t getting the help he needed’ on the inside but was cooperating with Pavilions drug and alcohol service in Brighton, which was willing to offer him a detox programme.

For all of his crimes, Judge David Rennie sentenced him to a two-year community order, with a nine-month drug rehabilitation requirement and a 20 days rehabilitation activity requirement. He has to go on a thinking skills programme, and was disqualified from driving for 18 months.