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Thief who nearly killed Dundee Marks and Spencer shop worker jailed for six years

Robert Gray battered his victim with a bottle after a theft attempt went disastrously wrong.

The M&S Foodhall at Gallagher Retail Park in Dundee
Robert Gray broke into the Marks and Spencer store and left its security guard fighting for his life. Image: DC Thomson.

A violent intruder who attacked a night shift worker at Marks and Spencer in Dundee and “smashed his skull” in a life-threatening assault has been jailed for six years.

Robert Gray, 41, left his victim bleeding heavily and unconscious before carrying on with his original mission to steal steaks and alcohol from the premises.

Judge Lord Scott told Gray at the High Court in Edinburgh he had displayed “an astonishing level of callousness” towards the victim.

The court heard the thief feared he had killed Scott Thomson in the attack after repeatedly hitting him on the head with a bottle.

Lord Scott said Gray – who originally faced an attempted murder charge – would have faced a nine-year jail term if he had been convicted after trial.

Gray earlier admitted assaulting Mr Thomson,47, to his severe injury, permanent disfigurement and the danger of his life at Marks and Spencer at Gallagher retail park on October 12 last year.

The M&S Simply Food store at the Gallagher Retail Park.
The M&S Simply Food store at the Gallagher Retail Park.

He also admitted breaking in and stealing food and alcohol.

The judge ordered supervision for a further three years when he will be on licence and can be returned to prison if he breaches its conditions.

Disastrous theft bid

The court previously heard Mr Thomson was working at a loading bay at 4am when he heard the sound of glass breaking at the rear of the store.

He went to investigate and saw Gray coming through a broken window.

He called the police and told him he was doing so but Gray shouted: “I’m coming through, I’m coming through.”

Advocate depute Richard Goddard KC said: “Upon entering the shop the accused picked up a glass bottle and threw it at the complainer, which struck him on the head.”

Dundee M&S closed sign
A sign outside the shop saying it was closed following the incident. Image: Amie Flett

Gray armed himself with another bottle and began to struggle with the night shift worker and repeatedly hit his head with the weapon.

Mr Goddard said: “This caused the complainer to fall to the floor, unconscious and injured.

“The accused then left the complainer in that state and began to steal bottles of alcohol and steaks before then fleeing via a fire exit.”

Gray returned to his girlfriend’s flat with three bottles of liqueur and seven packs of steak and told her had repeatedly hit a worker with a glass bottle and “smashed his skull”.

Devastating injuries

Mr Thomson came round and managed to get up but police found him unsteady on his feet and bleeding heavily from his face and head.

He was taken to Ninewells and found to have multiple skull fractures and a broken nose, eye sockets and cheek bone.

He suffered a bleed from an artery which caused pressure on his brain and underwent a craniotomy, where part of the skull is temporarily removed to relieve pressure.

Ninewells Hospital
Mr Thomson had emergency surgery at Ninewells Hospital.

He also underwent a further operation to repair his skull.

After six and a half weeks in hospital he continued to experience ongoing effects from the attack on him, the court heard.

Lord Scott noted one of the impacts on the victim was he has been advised not to continue swimming in case he has a seizure.

Accused’s ‘nightmares’

The court previously heard Gray had an extensive record of 88 previous convictions and at the time of the offence was on multiple bail orders.

Defence solicitor advocate Kris Gilmartin said his client’s position was he went to the premises with the intention of breaking a window and reaching in to steal bottles of drink but he had fallen in.

He said that after the bottle attack Gray was “very concerned” because the victim was not moving.

Mr Gilmartin said: “It was at that stage he thought he had killed him and he didn’t leave the shop until he was moving and making a noise.”

“The accused was aware police officers had been called and he did not leave the area until the emergency services were in the shop.

“He was able to see that from a distance.”

He said Gray has suffered nightmares following the offence and has shown remorse.

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