A MAN’s life descended into drink and drugs after he moved to the Powys area with his brother to escape gangs.

Elliot Matthew George Cooper committed a string of offences in January and February this year – weeks after moving to Llandrindod Wells. Magistrates this week heard how the 21-year-old’s offending got worse following his brother's suicide.

Cooper pleaded guilty to a total of six charges he faced when appearing in Llandrindod on Wednesday, June 9.

The earlier offences related to theft of tobacco items from a shop in Llandrindod on January 28 and from Spar in Newtown the next day. On January 29 Cooper’s car was also traced to a garage between Rhayader and Newbridge-on-Wye where he was found in possession of cannabis and a knife. Following his brother’s death, police conducted a welfare check on Cooper on February 27 – at which point he spat at a police officer and then ripped up a copy of the bible following his subsequent arrest.

Prosecutor Stephen Davies said the theft in Llandrindod occurred at the KDM Local newsagents on January 28. Mr Davies said: “Adam Thomas was working as a shop assistant. A male approached the till area and asked for tobacco and papers, so Mr Thomas turned to get them. He scanned the items, the male picked them up and appeared to leave the shop. Mr Thomas asked ‘Are you going to pay for them?’, to which the male replied ‘no’. He was seen running down Middleton Street. The total value of the items was said to be £38.83p.”

On the following day Cooper did the same thing, stealing items valued at £28.20p from Spar in Newtown.

“The male came in and asked for the items. He left and was seen getting into a black Citroen,” said Mr Davies.

“The car was located at midnight at the Holt Garage in Doldowlod, near Rhayader. Police got there, spoke to the defendant and found a lockknife in the pocket of his bodywarmer. He said he had it for wood carving. He was also found in possession of 6.5 grams of cannabis, worth around £65.”

Police were then called to the Hampton Hotel on February 27 to conduct a welfare check following the death of Cooper’s brother, Oliver. “He was not being compliant and shouting abuse and making threats,” said Mr Davies.

“While being searched, he turned his head towards Police Sergeant Cole and spat at the officer, which landed on their vest. A spit hood was fitted on the defendant.

“At the station the defendant requested a copy of the bible, which was ripped up while he was in his cell. He later denied he spat on anyone and denied he damaged the bible too.”

Michael Davies, acting for Cooper, of Llanidloes, said his client had no prior convictions before this period.

“Shortly before the first offence he had moved to Llandrindod Wells with his brother, Oliver. After moving they descended into drugs and alcohol, for much of the time they didn’t have a clue what they were doing.

“At the newsagents in Llandrindod he simply said no and walked out and did exactly the same the following day. It was unplanned and unsophisticated. He was never going to get away with it.”

Mr Davies said Cooper accepted the drugs and knife were his. Cooper has since moved to Llanidloes and gained employment as an abattoir worker.

“His brother died in between the two sets of offences,” added Mr Davies. “He was in intensive care for five days and his death led to another binge on drugs and alcohol.

“He thought the police were going over the top, but the police had gone to look after his wellbeing.”

The court heard from probation officer Donna Davies, who said: “Mr Cooper does accept he was out of control as a result of his brother’s suicide.

“He reacted to what he felt was a forced welfare check. He moved here in January as a result of his brother getting threats for debts. During this time he was smoking cannabis, drinking heavily and misusing xanex.”

After lengthy deliberation, magistrates jailed Cooper for a period of 16 weeks – 12 weeks for possessing the knife and four weeks consecutively for spitting at the officer. They suspended the sentence for 12 months.

Cooper must pay compensation in full to the two shops, as well as £9.09 for the damaged bible. He must also pay a £128 surcharge and £85 costs.

In addition, he was ordered to comply with a 12-month community order, which includes 15 rehabilitation activity days and 80 hours unpaid work.