'Danger man' has sentence reduced
DAVID Pleasants – Cleethorpes's most notorious criminal – has had his jail sentence cut by top judges.
The "professional criminal", who kidnapped a supermarket boss and his family in 2000, was caught with almost £20,000 of heroin in October, the latest incident in a catalogue of crime.
The 50-year-old was jailed for seven years, but London's Appeal Court has now reduced this to five – because he pleaded guilty when he was caught.
Pleasants – who was branded "danger man" in 1992 after he escaped from Grimsby Police Station – was found with the drugs just 10 weeks after being released halfway through a 15-year sentence for the kidnap.
Business Cards From Only £10.95 Delivered www.myprint-247.co.ukView details
Contact: 01858 468192
Valid until: Friday, May 31 2013
As reported, he later tried to escape from hospital after tricking police officers into believing he was unconscious.
Mrs Justice Slade, sitting in court with Lady Justice Hallett and Mr Justice Foskett, heard how Pleasants was sentenced at Sheffield Crown Court in January after admitting possessing heroin with intent to supply. He was also handed concurrent sentences for attempted escape and assault causing actual bodily harm.
The Appeal Court heard Pleasants was arrested by officers after his car was stopped on the M1 outside Sheffield last October.
They discovered a 491g heroin package under the driver's seat, and a subsequent body search at hospital revealed a smaller consignment strapped to his genitals.
Mrs Justice Slade said Pleasants "feigned unconsciousness" to get into Rotherham General Hospital. He was being escorted from the hospital the following morning – in a wheelchair and uncuffed – when he tried to escape.
Flanked by two police officers and two nurses, he suddenly "pushed the wheelchair directly at his nurses with some force and then ran for the door, pursued by an officer".
When the officer tried to recapture him, Pleasants turned and punched him in the face.
The constable finally managed to grab hold of the fugitive, but Pleasants "tried to bite his way out of the situation", said Mrs Justice Slade.
When recaptured outside the hospital, he told police: "I had to give it a try, didn't I?"
Pleasants insisted he was little more than a drugs "courier", transporting narcotics from Sheffield to Grimsby for a £150 fee on the orders of his "employer".
He had recently been released from a 15-year term for conspiracy to blackmail, the court heard.
But, despite his extensive record, Mrs Justice Slade cut his original sentence imposed by Recorder Simon Jackson QC to five years in light of his early guilty plea.
Pleasants is perhaps the most notorious criminal ever to hail from Cleethorpes and has a criminal career spanning 20 years.
He has been branded as an extremely violent and dangerous individual who was the mastermind behind a series of terrifying robberies across Lincolnshire.
Although his criminal career began in the late 1970s – with him being jailed in 1982 and 1985 – Pleasants did not come to public attention until 1989.
He was on trial at Lincoln Crown Court for stealing two cars from a Mablethorpe garage when he made his first escape from custody.
After being at large for three months – during which time he was branded "extremely dangerous" in an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch – he was finally captured in a violent struggle which injured five policemen.
Three pairs of handcuffs were needed to restrain Pleasants, who was later jailed for four years and nine months for burglary and assaulting police officers.
However, his most famous disappearing act came in 1992 just hours after being remanded in custody by Grimsby magistrates on burglary charges. Pleasants escaped from custody at Grimsby Police Station, wearing just shorts and trainers, sparking the biggest manhunt ever seen in the area.
He left Pc Neil Kurz, the officer guarding him, with a fractured skull and stole his cell keys. Weeks later, the keys were posted back.
After six weeks of appeals and warnings to the public not to approach Pleasants, he was picked up at his Sandringham Road home with his wife Tanya, whom he had married weeks earlier.
Later that year, Pleasants admitted robbery charges and escaping from police custody. He was sentenced to 10 years in jail, which police said was too lenient.
In 1994, Leicester Crown Court heard that he had been the mastermind behind a series of terrifying robberies across Grimsby and Cleethorpes.
Pleasants and his gang graduated from burgling businesses to robbing thousands of pounds from a Securicor van after spraying CS gas in the driver's face on Freeman Street.
In November 1992, they broke into Gemini Joinery, on Oxford Street, and stole tools before breaking into the post office next door.
They smashed through the wall behind the safe, taking £37,249 in cash, stamps and postal orders, after cutting it open with a blowtorch.
Tools from Gemini Joinery were later used to cut the padlock of the Clee Park Post Office on Grimsby Road, but the gang was disturbed when a member of the public spotted a missing padlock.
Police suspected the gang had intended to hide the break-in damage and wait in the post office overnight. A week later, that is exactly what they did. The managers arrived at the post office the next morning to be met by men in balaclavas, who grabbed one of them and held a knife to his throat until the safe was opened.
The court heard that, although Pleasants may not have physically carried out the robbery, he was involved with the planning. He was jailed for 10 years but, just one month after his release in 2000, he became involved in a crime that shocked the nation.
In the early hours of Wednesday, April 19, supermarket boss Clive Hobbs and his wife Suzanne woke with hands clamped around their mouths.
A gang of masked men had entered their home in Scothern, near Lincoln, after cutting through their back door. Mr Hobbs was held in the living room of the house while the rest disappeared with his wife and baby daughter.
The gang told him how they wanted him to take money from the cash machines at the Sainsbury's branches where he was a manager. One asked him: "Who do you love more, your wife and child or Sainsbury's?"
He was threatened with a gun and forced to collect more than £320,000. Meanwhile, his terrified wife and two-year-old daughter were taken to a remote farmhouse in Bardney, Lincolnshire, and forced into a small pantry under the stairs, which had been converted into a makeshift cell.
After hours trapped in the tiny room, police arrived to rescue them. Pleasants was found guilty of conspiracy to blackmail.