Fitness fanatic’s terror attack

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A fitness fanatic befriended a young man in a nightclub to mug him, terrorising him into handing over his bank card and PIN number with death threats and his “imposing” presence, a court heard.

Saraj Hussain had taken Matthew Rowland to an empty house, where he attacked him, pushed him into a back room and repeatedly threatened to kill him. He then withdrew hundreds of pounds from his victim’s account to spend on cocaine.

Burnley Crown Court was told Hussain knew his victim had a bank card, as he had been caught on CCTV on the way to the property, watching Mr Rowland as he paid for drink with it in a petrol station.

The defendant, who had earlier dropped out of university because of his “party lifestyle”, targeted his victim 15 months ago. He was said to now be a changed man, but a judge locked him up for three-and-a-half years for what he described as Hussain’s “ high level of criminality.”

Hussain (24), of Rook Street, Nelson, had earlier been convicted of robbery and three counts of fraud, committed in 2013. He had a previous conviction for stealing almost £2,000 from a past employer two years before, but had walked free from court on that occasion.

The hearing was told after the defendant befriended Mr Rowland in the nightclub, the pair went to the unfurnished property “which was available” to the defendant.

The court heard Hussain became aggressive and demanded the victim’s bank card, “slapping him around a bit” and pushing him into a back bedroom. The victim was so scared he gave Hussain his card and PIN number. Hussain then calmly walked to a supermarket where he used a cash machine and withdrew £300.

Mr Rowland had been able to escape while the defendant was taking his money and telephoned his mother to come and collect him.

Mr Mark Stuart (defending) said Hussain was in a stable relationship and hoped to marry as soon as possible.

He added: “He was 22 when he committed this offence. He seems to have taken the bull by the horns and made significant, positive changes to his life.”

Passing sentence, Recorder Peter Atherton told Hussain: “It’s apparent that you are a man who has maintained a high level of fitness and you do have an imposing physical presence.

“This was an unpleasant offence, with a high level of criminality attached to it. Just a couple of years before, you had been before the courts for a serious offence of theft from an employer.

“This is all very unfortunate, because there is much about you that is positive and could be positive.”