UK Gambler Smashes Up William Hill Shops in Revenge Attack
A disgruntled gambling addict smashed TV screens and fixed-odds betting terminals (FOBTs) with a hammer at seven different William Hill betting shops in Liverpool causing £36,000 worth of damage.
Eric Baptista, of Toxteth, was given a 12-month suspended jail term after admitting to seven counts of criminal damage. He will be required to do 150 hours of unpaid community service. Baptista was also ordered by the judge at Liverpool Crown Court not to go within 10 metres of any William Hill betting shop for five years.
The 29-year-old claimed his attacks were “in protest”. During one attack, in which he filmed himself on a phone, Baptista can be heard shouting: “I’m sick of this f***ing s***! I’m sick of losing money!” He later explained to police that his attacks were motivated by his frustration with William Hill staff and their failure to deal with his gambling problem. He argues that staff are not trained to deal with patrons who are not in control of their gambling and that there is “no safety net for customers”.
Crown advocate Mike Stephenson, who prosecuted the case, said: “He [Baptista] also said that he’d started a forum against the gambling industry, and campaigns to try to highlight the problems that gamblers face.”
Baptista’s rampage began on the 9th May this year, when he attacked the William Hill shop on Aigburth Road. He used anti-vandal paint to cover machines so they couldn’t be played. The shop was forced to close due to £3,713 worth of damage.
On the 22nd May, Baptista descended into a fit of rage after losing £150 on a FOBT at the William Hill on Park Road, Toxteth. He caused £8,346 worth of damage by smashing two betting terminals and two FOBTs before heading straight to the branch on Lawrence Road, Wavertree. There, he smashed a further three machines by toppling them over, causing £4,130 worth of damage.
He then returned to the Aigburth Road shop where he smashed an additional 12 TVs and six betting terminals, adding another £10,066 worth of damage to his rampage. The same day, Baptista also smashed 13 TVs and five betting machines in a William Hill shop on Lodge Lane, Toxteth, resulting in £3,196 worth of damage.
Finally, on the 28th May, he again returned to the Aigburth Road branch, smashing 15 TVs and a touch screen monitor with a hammer, causing £5,679 worth of damage. He also attacked the Lodge Lane shop again on the same day with an unidentified woman who filmed his attack on a phone. During this final attack, he also produced water balloons from a carrier bag and threw them inside the FOBTs.
Mike Stephenson said Baptista didn’t regret causing the damage and that he was willing to face the consequence of his actions.
Judge Nicholls, Liverpool Crown Court, added: “No doubt you would say they deserved it because of the financial harm you have sustained through gambling. But there are more appropriate ways to deal with your gambling addiction than smashing up William Hill.”
He often lost £400 in five minutes on fixed-odds terminals and lost all his savings, which led to family problems. – Carole Clarke, defending lawyer
This is not the first time a gambling addict has taken his revenge out on a betting shop. In April 2017, Warren Burke caused €2,500 worth of damage at a Ladbrokes shop in Dublin. The 39-year-old threw stools at TVs and FOBTs after losing his temper following a lost bet.