Chronicles

Newcastle nightclub thief assaulted TV reporter during live broadcast and shouted ‘Allahu akbar’

A nightclub thief who targeted women on Tyneside went on to assault a TV journalist during a live broadcast and shouted “Allahu akbar”.

Failed Algerian asylum seeker Sofane Yakr had absconded from Newcastle after being arrested on theft and false identity document offences when he brought fear to Hyde Park, in London.

Journalist Sophie Walsh, who works for Australian broadcaster, Channel 9, was covering protests over the death of George Floyd on June 3 last year when she was attacked by Yakr.

Newcastle Crown Court heard he suddenly appeared in front of her and pushed her with both hands, lunging at her and striking out at her in a stabbing motion.

Yakr then gesticulated aggressively towards a number of people with a screwdriver before running off.

He was chased and was heard repeating the phrase “Allahu akbar”, which caused alarm to members of the public.

Vince Ward, prosecuting, said Miss Walsh was not on camera at the time as footage was being played showing the protests in Paris.

Mr Walsh said: “Her voice could be heard as she was being attacked.

“She reappeared on air and was obviously distressed by the attack. That is in the public domain.”

Sofane Yakr

In a victim impact statement, Miss Walsh said she felt “exposed and vulnerable”.

She added: “By the time I realised he was there, he was on me. If he wanted to hurt me, he could have done.

“Live broadcasts are part of the job and I have to do them every day but I now have a fear.

“Hooligans shout out but I’ve never had someone come up and grab me.

“It’s concerning to me. Producing live news, I need to be focused. It could have an impact on my career.

“I don’t want to be someone who’s scared to enjoy a simple run in the park.”

Yakr had come to the attention of police in Newcastle on December 23 2018 when he stole a woman’s phone, purse, bank card and cash had been stolen at Popworld.

When taken into custody, he gave his correct details but produced a fake Portuguese identity card with his picture and a false name on it.

Police released him under investigation.

On April 13 2019, eight women reported having their mobile phones and bank cards stolen at city centre bars House of Smith, Madame Koo and Floritas.

Yakr, 26, who was with two other men who were part of an alleged plot to steal, admitted pinching from one of the women and was dealt with for that previously at magistrates court.

It later transpired he had used a counterfeit French driving licence to gain entry to the bars.

Mr Ward said: “The prosecution say he, with the others, targeted young women in relation to the thefts, in busy bars in the early hours of the morning, probably targeting them because they were intoxicated and clearly he has used two different identities in the process of doing that.”

Yakr, previously of Stanton Street, Newcastle, who has 14 previous convictions, pleaded guilty to common assault, possessing an offensive weapon, theft, two counts of possessing identity documents with an improper intention and possessing cannabis.

Judge Amanda Rippon jailed him for 28 months.

Judge Rippon told him: “You assaulted a TV news reporter during a live broadcast, using a screwdriver to threaten her while shouting Allahu akbar.

“Her victim personal statement makes it plain how shocking and upsetting and distressing it was to her.

The judge added: “He chose to attack her as she was on camera, using the words Allahu akbar. His intention was plainly to cause widespread fear as he attacked a woman during a live broadcast.”

Judge Rippon told him: “I hope you are deported to Algeria because that’s where you want to be and that’s, frankly, where you should be.”

Yakr’s barrister said he is relatively young, suffered the death of his father and moved to the UK in search of a better life but fell into a life of acquisitive crime.

The court heard he was under the influence of drugs during the offence in London.

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