Courageous staff helped customers escape knifeman in Portsmouth Virgin Media store

editorial image
Have your say

A DETECTIVE has praised staff who helped customers flee when they were confronted by a man armed with a bread knife inside a shop.

Tobias Maylott, 21, was jailed yesterday for waving the 17cm blade in the Virgin Media store in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, on October 31 last year.

Maylott ‘terrorised’ staff after admitting being overwhelmed by the number of children in the busy shopping street as he had just read papers sent to him about his child being taken into care.

Judge Roger Hetherington jailed him for 27 months after hearing how the three-hour stand-off unfolded after he went out armed with the bread knife.

Investigating officer Detective Constable Andy Sims said: ‘Once you’re in there it’s very hard – you can get cornered in the shop so you can imagine being faced with someone waving a knife about.

‘All of them handled it courageously and dealt with it before police arrived.

Police and emergency services attending the reports of a man with a knife in Virgin Media store in Commercial Road on October 31

Police and emergency services attending the reports of a man with a knife in Virgin Media store in Commercial Road on October 31

‘One customer tried to talk him down and talk him round while the staff were stopping other customers come in the shop and also clearing the store as well.’

He added it was one of the staff members’ first day working in the store.

Speaking to The News soon after the incident the defendant’s sister Chloe Maylott, 23, said she went to the shop to help talk him down. She said: ‘I just said “it’s me” and I told him to calm down. He then said “I’m so sorry”.’

Chloe said she talked to her brother for a while and eventually he came out and was taken away by police.

‘He put his hands up and said “can you help me?”,’ she added. ‘He didn’t know exactly what he had done. It was all a blur. It was a big cry for help.’

Portsmouth Crown Court heard that Maylott threatened two people with the knife and threw an alcohol gel bottle at shopper Rhys Lewis, who was in the store with his wife. Mr Lewis suffered a cut above his left eye.

Maylott, of no fixed address, was waving the knife around in a ‘fast, manic and aggressive manner’, the court heard.

Terrified staff member Lewis Coles barricaded himself inside a toilet as Maylott tried to get in. He was rescued when police burst into the building.

Maylott eventually holed up in the loft after slashing a computer screen in the store and threatening the staff. He was talked down after the three-hour siege.

CCTV footage played in court showed Maylott, of no fixed address, brandishing the blade at an unsuspecting staff member who was having lunch upstairs.

The judge said Maylott has a history of substance misuse, is emotionally unstable and has a personality disorder, although there is no diagnosis. The court heard Maylott threw tiles and slates from a roof of a home in Esslemont Road, Southsea, in 2014, and was given a suspended sentence for affray.

Robert Forrest, defending, said about the Virgin Media incident: ‘He went out not intending to hurt someone but ended up causing so much terror but immaturity played its part.’

He added Maylott was described by his mother as a ‘bomb waiting to go off’.

Maylott pleaded guilty to affray, threatening people with a knife and common assault. Maylott was jailed for 20 months for the affray, 20 months concurrent for making threats with a knife and three months concurrent for the common assault. He received seven months for breaching the suspended sentence.

Man was ‘paranoid’ and had ‘smoked too much’

KNIFEMAN Tobias Maylott told police he had smoked too much cannabis and was paranoid on the day he took out the knife.

The 21-year-old said nothing for 50 minutes to police before opening up to them.

Martyn Booth, prosecuting, said in his interview Maylott said he was paranoid.

Mr Booth said: ‘He explained he was smoking too much weed and he was going mental. He believed that people were out to kill him.’

He added: ‘He said that on that day he was paranoid and thought people were out to kill him so he left the house with a kitchen knife. He said he was overwhelmed with panic.

‘He selected a small store, he told everyone to leave and that he just needed space then but couldn’t get it.’

Mr Booth told how shopper Rhys Lewis, who was in the store with his wife, came eye-to-eye with Maylott inside the store.

He said: ‘Mr Lewis looked the male in the eye and told him “you have to leave”.

‘Maylott didn’t reply and started walking further into the shop.’

Mr Lewis shouted to his wife and Maylott waved the knife ‘fast, manically, and aggressively.’