'Like the Wild West': Two Scarborough men in 'scary' armed fight outside Tesco, security guard hailed as a hero

Two men have been jailed for a terrifying incident likened to a “Wild West” scene in which they attacked each other with a kitchen knife and a sock laden with rocks outside a Scarborough supermarket.

By Court Reporter
Thursday, 14th January 2021, 9:11 am
Updated Thursday, 14th January 2021, 9:14 am

Robert Kitchen and Steven Stewart had arranged to meet up for an “armed fight” after a dispute over a woman, York Crown Court heard.

The “scary” incident, in broad daylight, began at a self-service check-out at Tesco in Westwood, where Stewart walked up to Kitchen and “words were exchanged”, said prosecutor James Howard.

“Stewart is seen to throw what looks like a screwed-up piece of paper towards Kitchen and walks towards the exit,” added Mr Howard.

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Robert Kitchen, left, and Steven Stewart.

Kitchen, 35, was heard to say to a supermarket worker: “I could stab that bloke.”

Staff ushered Kitchen out of the store, but the two warring Scarborough men went to the side of the supermarket where Stewart produced a sock filled with rocks, described as a “sock cosh”.

“He hits Kitchen across the face with (the cosh),” said Mr Howard.

Stewart, 33, then backed off from Kitchen but with his arms outstretched, as if he were “goading” the other man for a fight.

Tesco, on Westwood.

“Kitchen then produces a knife and lunges towards Stewart, slicing the front of (Stewart’s) clothing,” added Mr Howard.

Stewart jumped back from the lunging knifeman and mercifully escaped injury.

Witness Stuart Smith, a Tesco security guard who turned out to be the hero of the piece, said he saw Kitchen make two “stabbing motions” towards his adversary and a “slashing motion”.

The fight continued behind some cash points, which was where Mr Smith intervened.

Mr Smith said to Kitchen, “Put (the knife) down mate; it’s not worth it”, before grabbing him round the neck and “controlling” the arm wielding the blade. Kitchen duly gave up the knife as Stewart ran off.

Kitchen, of South Street, was arrested at the scene after being detained by Mr Smith. Upon being arrested on suspicion of possessing a knife, Kitchen said to officers: “Tools of the trade.”

Stewart, of West Square, was arrested later the same day when he denied using the “sock cosh”, although he later made full admissions.

They both appeared for sentence on Monday – in separate courtrooms linked by video technology – after Stewart pleaded guilty to affray and threatening another with an offensive weapon and Kitchen admitted affray and threatening his rival with a blade.

Mr Howard said that in the run-up to the incident in the early afternoon of April 7 last year, the two men had exchanged a series of venomous text messages in which they ultimately arranged to have a fight.

He said that in the four weeks prior to the incident, the acrimony between the two men had resulted in “insults and death threats” being issued by both parties.

Both men were said to be drunk at the time of the incident, which Mr Smith described as “scary”.

The court heard that Kitchen had “by far” the worse record, with 15 previous convictions for offences including public disorder, possessing a blade and obstructing police officers.

Graham Parkin, for Stewart, said his client, a former hotel night manager, had mental-health and alcohol problems for which he was getting help.

He said Stewart had found new work at a care home but would lose his employment due to these offences.

Tabitha Buck, for Kitchen, said her client’s previous spate of offending had been fuelled by drug addiction.

Judge Sean Morris said it was “just luck that (Stewart) jumped back (as the knife was being thrust at him), otherwise (Kitchen) would have disembowelled him”.

“It’s two stupid men who wound themselves up about a woman and met up for an armed fight,” he added.

“You, Stewart, had a sock cosh, and you, Kitchen, had a kitchen knife, and in broad daylight, in Scarborough, you two started brawling in the street and brandishing those weapons.”

The judge told Kitchen: “You are very fortunate that you didn’t disembowel (Stewart) and you could have been up on a murder charge.”

He told Stewart: “You could have bashed (Kitchen’s) brains in with the cosh and also have been up on a murder charge. This is North Yorkshire – it isn’t the Wild West.”

Kitchen was jailed for 11 months. Stewart, who had few previous convictions, was jailed for nine months.

Both men will serve half of those sentences behind bars before being released on parole.

Mr Morris paid tribute to security guard Mr Smith for his “extreme” bravery in disarming Kitchen and breaking up the fight.

“That was a very, very brave thing to do and if he hadn’t done so…who knows what would have happened?” added the judge.

He said that Mr Smith would be awarded £350 out of public funds and, with his consent, would be presented with the cheque by the High Sheriff of North Yorkshire in a ceremony held remotely over a video link, when the heroic security officer would receive a public commendation.