A man who drove a digger into a partly-built hotel in Liverpool, causing around £450,000 of damage, has been jailed for five years and four months.
John Manley, 36, of St Aidan’s Way in Netherton, near Liverpool, drove the Bobcat digger into the partly-built Travelodge on Liverpool Innovation Park on Monday, 21 January 2019. He said it was because he was owed wages.
The Crown Prosecution Service said his actions caused hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage and put lives at risk.
Victim Personal Statements also told of how people who had secured jobs at the Travelodge hotel and had cancelled their benefits payments accordingly could not start for weeks because of the incident and suffered real financial hardship.
Manley, who had been working on the site, spoke to site manager, Peter Robinson, on the Friday before the incident, claiming he was owed around £600 in unpaid wages for ten days work.
Mr Robinson promised to try and sort the issue and tried to calm Manley down, but on the following Monday, Manley spoke to him again and said he still had not been paid.
Mr Robinson, who had been at meetings for most of that day, again tried to calm Manley down and said he would sort it.
Shortly afterwards, Mr Robinson heard a loud bang. Manley had got into the driver’s cabin of a Bobcat digger and had driven it into the front of the Travelodge hotel and then into the partly-constructed reception area.
He then turned round the vehicle and appeared to be heading towards the car park on the site.
Staff at the site tried to stop Manley before he did any more damage, but he swung the arm of the digger round so they had to jump out of the way.
He had locked himself into the cabin of the digger and finally came to a stop when he heard police sirens. He then ran off towards nearby Edge Lane.
On 14 February 2019 he was arrested by police on suspicion of causing criminal damage with intent to endanger life and was cautioned.
He appeared at Liverpool Crown Court in March 2019 and accepted causing the criminal damage but denied his actions amounted to reckless endangerment to life.
The offer of a plea to simple criminal damage was not accepted by the Crown Prosecution Service and a trial date was set.
On the day of trial, 2 September 2019, he pleaded guilty to the full offence. He later suggested he wished to vacate this plea but this was subsequently abandoned and today (26 February 2020) he was sentenced to six years' imprisonment, reduced to five years and four months, with a 10 per cent discount for his late plea.
Kelly Ward of CPS Mersey-Cheshire said: “Manley was clearly in a very distressed state in the run up to this incident.
“He told Mr Robinson that he was in financial difficulties and, because of the apparent delay in receiving his wages, he couldn’t buy food or pay for electricity at his home.
“Mr Robinson was trying his best to help him but then Mr Manley decided to take matters into his own hands.
“By driving the digger into the hotel, he not only caused a considerable amount of damage and financial loss to the developers, but he put lives at risk on the site.
“He was at the wheel of a very powerful vehicle and was driving it in an erratic and dangerous way.
“Several people on the site tried to get him to stop but he did not. He only got out when he realised that the police were on their way.
“This has been a complex case for the Crown Prosecution Service as Mr Manley clearly has some problems to deal with. But his actions on that day developed into criminality and the CPS has to address that.
“There were also people who had jobs at the soon-to-be opened hotel and, because of what Mr Manley did, they could not start work for a further six weeks.