'Killer clown' prankster jailed for chasing pregnant woman

An axe-wielding "killer clown" prankster has been jailed after he chased a pregnant woman the night before Halloween, a UK court has heard.

Michael March, 18, is thought to be the first person imprisoned following the craze that swept across the UK.

Newcastle Crown Court heard he terrified a couple walking past him after banging the foot-long axe on the floor in South Shields just after 9pm.

The woman, who was 22 weeks pregnant, threw a brick at him in an attempt to defend herself before he ran off.

Jailing him for six months, Judge Jamie Hill QC said: "Brandishing an axe and threatening people in the street is serious whatever the context."

Nicholas Rooke, prosecuting, told the court that after the police were called they traced March via CCTV and found him with the axe and a clown mask in his backpack.

"He claimed it was a prank saying he had himself been chased by killer clowns in Gateshead and he thought he would scare people as part of a prank," he said.

Mr Rooke said the pregnant woman, who had been walking with her partner on October 30, had not given a statement as "she did not want the stress of court to affect her any further".

Sentencing him, Judge Hill said it was so serious that only a custodial sentence was appropriate.

"The fact you were wearing a clown mask is an aggravating factor because it increased the fear they would have experienced and secondly it was a way of disguising who you were," he said.

March had previously admitted possession of a bladed article.

The craze that swept the UK led to a deluge of calls to Childline from youngsters left terrified by the sinister phenomenon as well as dozens of reports to police.

A 10-year-old boy in Plymouth was threatened by a clown who jumped out of a bush carrying a hammer, while in Workington, Cumbria, a clown brandishing an axe chased an 11-year-old girl.

Kent Police saw 59 clown-related incidents between October 7 and 10, Thames Valley Police had 14 reports in 24 hours, and South Yorkshire Police said it had received 61 reports.

Vic Laffey, defending, said March had no previous convictions and that he lived with his grandparents and helped care for his grandfather.

He said he accepted his actions had been "foolish and reckless" and that it must have been a frightening incident.

"When he was apprehended his first words were: 'I was not going to hurt anyone'," he said.

"This was a Halloween prank gone horribly wrong."

He had tried to convince the judge that he should have avoided jail, as at the time of the offence he was 17 years old.

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