A mentally ill man who sparked panic at Gatwick Airport when he turned up brandishing two huge kitchen knives has been given a suspended sentence.
Adam Russell, who suffers with schizophrenia, told a neighbour he was planning a “massacre” at the airport and was “going to kill them all”.
The 32-year-old was in the midst of a relapse from the illness when he took the bus to the airport in the early hours of June 3, 2019, armed with two blades, a court heard.
After Russell headed towards the international departure lounge, security staff pressed the panic button and nearly 200 people were evacuated from the South Terminal.
Armed police arrived less than two minutes later and tasered him before they were able to arrest him.
Russell, of Percivale Close in Crawley, West Sussex, pleaded guilty to possessing a bladed article and affray. He appeared at Lewes Crown Court for sentencing on Tuesday afternoon.
Prosecutor Rachel Beckett said Russell was seen by one of his neighbours about 1.30am while they both waited for a bus.
She told the court: “The defendant said he was going for a massacre at Gatwick.
“He later said he was going to kill them all.”
Russell arrived at the airport and was seen walking into the arrivals hall, carrying a knife in each hand.
One witness said the defendant was “walking with purpose in his stride” and had “an emotionless glazed over look in his face”.
Another said Russell looked “like he was on a mission”.
As onlookers realised the danger, they began shouting and running, with security staff ushering people away.
He was heard shouting “come on then” as he continued to hold the knives.
The prosecutor added: “(A) security officer said she was so scared when she saw the defendant she was scared he was about to start stabbing everyone.
“She thought ‘this is it, this is a terrorist attack’.”
Staff pressed the panic button at 1.54am and armed police arrived in the area at 1.55am.
Officers armed with a carbine and handguns found the defendant and shouted at him to show them his hands.
They formed the view that he was “aggressive and an immediate danger” and tasered him in the chest.
After he was apprehended, he told officers that he suffered from schizophrenia.
The court heard that a week before the Gatwick incident he had told ambulance staff that voices in his head were telling him to blow up the airport.
Defence barrister Fiona Clegg said: “What is very clear is that in the proceeding weeks to the incident that his mental health was deteriorating significantly.
“Mr Russell now wishes me to indicate that he is now able to see – whilst he was not at the time – just how alarming this must have been.
“It was not his intention to harm anyone there.”
She said that Russell is “profusely sorry” and has been engaging with mental health services.
Sentencing him, Judge Jeremy Gold QC said it was a “very serious” incident and that in other circumstances he would be sending him to prison for an extended time.
He told Russell: “You were not thinking logically or reasonably at the time.
“You had told a neighbour that you were going for a massacre at Gatwick Airport and you were apprehended by the police at the airport after they tasered you.
“Those officers would have had other possibilities open to them including the use of firearms.
“In many respects you are fortunate to be standing in front of me today.
“They could have dealt with the situation very differently.”
He said he was “unimpressed” that Russell had been self-medicating with illicit drugs at the time of the incident.
Judge Gold handed Russell a 15-month suspended sentence along with requirements for treatment and rehabilitation.
Superintendent Justin Burtenshaw said: “I would like to praise the bravery of the officers involved in this case who helped to keep the public safe.
“Their quick-thinking actions saw Russell swiftly disarmed, detained and weapons seized.”