Homophobic thug who terrorised Leeds neighbours was found hiding in dog kennel by police

A man who went on a year-long rampage of violence, theft and homophobic harassment has been jailed after a judge labelled him "without mercy".

By Richard Beecham
Tuesday, 24th May 2022, 5:07 pm

At a sentencing hearing this week, Leeds Crown Court was told how Connor Russell, 29, of Waggon Road, Middleton, tortured his neighbours with a 13-month campaign of homophobic abuse and threats of violence.

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Russell was also charged for repeatedly punching and kicking a police officer, burgling 35 televisions from a lorry and a botched one-man warehouse raid during a year-long crime rampage.

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Connor Russell was sentenced to 59 months in prison.

The court heard how a couple had moved into a flat underneath Russell's home back in May 2018. At that time, Russell would regularly hold four-day-long parties in his flat, and it was during one of these when he recognised the couple and shouted a homophobic slur.

The court heard that, throughout the following year, they would often hear Russell screaming homophobic and threatening language at them.

In August 2018, the victims were sat in their garden when Russell leaned out of his window and threatened to kill them. Russell would also regularly bang on his floor and scream homophobic death threats through their ceiling.

On March 29, 2019, the victims were dropped off at home by a relative when Russell, stood outside with a friend, shouted more homophobic insults at them - all in front of their three-year-old nephew who was in the passenger seat.

Prosecuting Russell, Fen Greatley-Hirsch said the situation got so extreme that the victims would often have to stay away from the property and live with friends. One of the victims even lost his job due to the stress caused by the situation, and the two even had to consider moving away due to Russell's behaviour.

A statement was read out to the court by one of the victims, which said that the terror they had faced was equivalent to racial abuse.

Russell was charged for a further 10 offences.

On June 19, 2020, police received a 999 call from a house in Raylands Lane, Belle Isle, as Russell, believed to be going through a mental health breakdown at the time, was fighting with a family member.

A female police officer attempted to handcuff Russell before being punched to the ground. After a struggle between Russell and officers, a chase ensued before Russell ended up on top of the female officer with his hands around her neck. He then punched her in the head several times before standing up and kicking her. More police officers arrived to help but Russell managed to escape once more.

Officers later arrested Russell after searching a nearby garden to find him hiding in a dog kennel.

On April 29, 2020, Russell was spotted by police in Belle Isle Road with 10 to 15 males. Officers wound down their window and told Russell, who had a bicycle and was holding a bottle of vodka, to go home. Russell then became aggressive and said he was going to "fight with his boys". He was given a final warning by a police officer, but continued to be abusive before trying to cycle away.

Officers soon found him in nearby Winrose Approach holding two metal poles - he told police he would use them if they approached him, before smashing the rear windscreen of a parked car.

On the evening of May 23, 2019, Russell broke into a lorry parked in Woodall Services near Rotherham and stole 35 televisions to the value of £9,717. Police were able to trace the crime back to him after finding traces of his blood at the scene.

On August 19, 2019, Russell broke into a warehouse in Old Mill Lane, Leeds. While there, he hotwired a van and loaded it up with electricals and clothing he found on nearby pallets. He attempted to flee the scene in the van, but was unable to get through the metal gates. He then attempted to break them using an angle grinder, before eventually ramming the vehicle through a fence.

Unfortunately for Russell, the van became stuck and was hit by another vehicle.

The court heard how Russell had claimed to have been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia back in 2014, but that his medical records only listed drug-induced psychosis.

Mitigating for Russell, Fiona Clancy began by addressing the burglary of the lorry, adding: "Having met him, he does not strike me as the type of person who is able to mastermind this kind of thing - you can see from the rest of the offending that paints a picture of absolute chaos.

"This defendant was drinking and drinking and drinking throughout the offending period. When he was in custody he admitted to being guilty.

"He realises he will spend some time [in prison], and is looking forward to going to a working prison - he wants to do work wherever he is located."

Russell had already pleaded guilty to charges of harassment, burglary of a non-dwelling, theft from a vehicle, two counts of beating an emergency worker, two counts of damaging property, two counts of failing to surrender to courts, being drunk and disorderly, and possessing an offensive weapon.

Jailing Russell, Judge Robin Mairs said: "I have to deal with you for a number of matters of violence and dishonesty.

"Harassment was committed over a 13 month period - it was a regular diet of homophobic abuse. They had done you no harm whatsoever and you could scarcely cross their path without screaming threats and abuse.

"Whether it is some deep-seated insecurity of yours, I do not know, but the presence of their three-year-old nephew did nothing to stop you screaming threats and abuse.

"The strain it caused to them was deep - living in their own home and minding their own business, they did nothing to bring this on themselves. You decided to harass and bully them without mercy.

"This is a hate crime."

Addressing his crimes as a whole, Judge Mairs later added: "I have no doubt that you spent most of this time in a state of drink and drugs. I don't have a shred of information that you suffer from an organic mental illness that caused this offending."

Russell was sentenced to numerous consecutive prison sentences, adding up to 59 months.