The nine hours in which Leslie Garrett brought 'terror, fear and mayhem' to the city

It was a typically damp and dreary Wednesday evening in January and, approaching the point where the East Lancs meets its western end, parents and kids were seeking some solace from the post-Christmas blues with a screening of Timothee Chalamet's Wonka at the Showcase Cinema.

In neighbouring screens elsewhere within the Croxteth picture house, couples and groups of friends could be caught enjoying a bucket of popcorn and a Tango Ice Blast while taking in the biopic of Elvis Presley's ex-wife Priscilla. One Life, the acclaimed depiction of humanitarian Sir Nicholas Winton's efforts to rescue hundreds of Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia, was also among the newly released flicks.

The lobby was largely deserted when Leslie Garrett walked in wearing flip flops and a long green overcoat with the hood up. In his arms, he was carrying an AK47.

READ MORE: Live updates as Leslie Garrett sentenced over Showcase Cinema shooting

READ MORE: Woman's 'legs felt like jelly' when man in flip flops walked into cinema with AK47

Ironically enough, it could be described as being like something out of the movies. Garrett was in the midst of a rampage which had already seen him open fire with the assault rifle in a newsagents before heading to the pub for a pint and showing the weapon off to fellow drinkers.

The dad had formerly worked at the Showcase as a security guard for many years, but lost his job three months previously when his drinking problem got on top of him. Now, he was discharging gunshots into the air outside as his terrified ex-colleagues ducked for cover.

Garrett was a man who had previously had the odd brush with the law, but his criminal record only showed entries for relatively minor offences. Similarly, he was barely known to mental health services.

However, by his own account, he had been keeping an array of dark emotions locked deep inside himself for many years. And January 3 2024 was the night when it all came to a head.

Garrett was born in June 1974, one of seven siblings. But, in the early to mid 1980s, his young life would be marred by tragedy and trauma.

First, he witnessed one of his brothers being run over. Only a few years later, a family friend was murdered in front of his eyes as he was eating his tea in the kitchen.

Then, as an adult, his baby son died at the age of only six weeks. He was able to gain employment as a joiner and a roofer as a young man, but largely worked in the security industry and spent some 15 years "on and off" with the Showcase via a contractor.

But, in his mid-40s, came what one forensic psychiatrist described as the "straw that broke the camel's back", when another of his brothers died as a result of diabetes. The first indication that Garrett was struggling came in 2016, when "everything got on top of him" and he presented at A&E reporting he was suffering from suicidal thoughts and was "on autopilot".

Five years later in May 2021, he attended his GP surgery with "low mood and PTSD symptoms". He was prescribed antidepressants and offered therapy, but he only attended one session and never took his medication.

Only a month before he brought carnage and chaos to the city, Garrett dialled 999 on December 5 2023 and told a call handler "my time here is done". Sadly, nothing was done.

In the autumn of last year, Garrett had been homeless and living in his car after being kicked out by a family member due to his self-confessed "awful" behaviour and, in October, he was sacked from the Showcase Cinema. A court would later hear that this was because of "complaints about his behaviour towards other members of staff", although he would claim it was due to him being under the influence of alcohol.

It was around this time that he was allegedly approached by two men who offered him £300 to mind a bag, the contents of which were not disclosed to him. When curiosity got the better of him and he peeked inside a week after accepting the proposal, he discovered a Czech-manufactured military "AK47-style rifle" dating back to 1964 alongside more than 300 cartridges.

Garrett was a man who had long held an interest in and knowledge of guns. He had enjoyed hunting as a younger man, and would often watch videos on YouTube on the subject of firearms.

Thus, the scene was set for the events of January 3. Garrett argued with his partner and began drinking rum at around 1pm that day, consuming around a bottle-and-a-half over the 24-hour period leading up to the moment he set foot in Sangha's off-licence on Lower House Lane in Norris Green.

Leslie Garrett firing an AK47 in Sangha's off-licence
Leslie Garrett, 49, from Fazakerley

Amandeep Singh had been working alone as a shop assistant that evening, and was standing behind the till of the empty store at around 7.30pm. Within hours, CCTV footage of what happened next would become infamous.

Even now, months later, viewing the video makes the jaw drop. Garrett - similarly hooded by his green coat and clad in flip flops - entered, demanded "come on, money", revealed the gun and fired a single shot into a plastic protective screen at the counter.

But, just as soon as he had arrived, he left empty handed. Mr Singh - who, up until the point of the discharge, had a smile on his face, believing the incident to be an elaborate joke - meanwhile fled into the stock room in fear.

Garrett hopped back into his silver Ford Focus and made his way to the Western Approaches pub, an establishment he had once been a regular at. He ordered a drink and began chatting to other drinkers at the bar.

Quite what the topic of conversation was is unknown, but it led to two of the customers following him outside to the boot of his car. They soon found themselves backing away again as they realised what was inside.

Garrett produced the gun to them before getting back in his car and driving away again, this time bound for the Showcase Cinema. Arriving shortly after 8.45pm, he found Danielle Mea working as a cashier behind the ticket desk and Philip Smith on duty as security.

Like Mr Singh before them, they too believed that what was unfolding in front of them was a prank. The guard, thinking the weapon to be an imitation firearm, responded to the gunman pointing the rifle in the face of his colleague by saying: "Drop the peashooter and don't point it at her."

Garrett, who was not recognised by the staff members due to the disguise of his hood, told him "come see" and gestured for him to follow on into the car park. By the main entrance, he pointed the gun at Mr Smith before moving it to his left and firing.

Now realising the enormity of the situation, the employee shouted back to Ms Mea: "Get down. Get out."

Garrett then fired for a second time, this time into the air. He continued discharging the weapon several times as he left via the rear of the building, with 12 bullet casings ultimately being recovered from the scene.

Police at the Showcase Cinema on the night of the shooting
Leslie Garrett firing an AK47 in Sangha's off-licence -Credit:Liverpool Echo

As the cinema was placed on lockdown, with moviegoers stunned to find swarms of armed police outside when they emerged from their screenings, the gunman left at speed through a red traffic light. His next destination was a Go Local store, but this time the rifle remained in the car and Garrett picked up two miniature bottles of vodka on credit before leaving without a fuss.

Booze in hand, he spent roughly an hour at his mum's address on Ternhall Road in Fazakerley before moving on to his partner Jennifer Forshaw's home on Malpas Road in Croxteth at around 10pm. There, he erupted for a third time.

One resident was watching television, with her children upstairs in bed when their evening was interrupted by a bang. Her kids were awoken and burst into tears.

The mum sought to reassure them that the noise was merely a firework, but there followed a second bang. Then a third, and then a fourth.

She called the police and was warned to lock her doors and switch her lights off. By the time officers arrived, Garrett had gone.

Ms Forshaw told them her partner had fired the gun into the night's sky unprompted, having kept the weapon stashed at her address. And there it was discovered by the police, alongside the huge collection of ammunition under her mattress.

Garrett meanwhile returned to his mum's house. Shortly after 4.30am, a team of 16 firearms officers, two negotiators and a dog handler arrived en masse in ballistically protected Land Rovers.

His 67-year-old mum answered the door and was instructed to leave at gunpoint. Garrett then presented himself, "agitated and aggressive" and dressed only in a blue t-shirt and his boxer shorts, but when instructed to surrender simply replied: "F*** off d***head."

He was then tasered in order to prevent him from arming himself or barricading himself within the property. He fell to the floor and, some nine hours after it had begun, his astonishing crime spree was at an end.

Police on Ternhall Road
Police at Sangha's on Lower House Lane in Liverpool on the night of Garrett's gun rampage

Once in custody, Garrett remained silent under interview. However, appearing before Liverpool Crown Court the following month, he admitted all eight charges he faced.

By the time of his scheduled sentencing in April though, he had entered a basis of plea claiming his motivation was that he would be shot dead by police officers responding to the incident. This resulted in a trial of issue - a hearing in which a judge decides the factual basis upon which a defendant is to be sentenced - before the same court this week, during which two psychiatrists gave their views on whether or not Garrett's intention was "suicide by cop".

Defence expert Dr Inti Qurashi said in his evidence: "Looking at what he did on the night seems bizarre. He goes from the newsagents to a public house to have a drink.

"He must know people are going to be out looking for him. He then goes to Showcase Cinema, a place where he’s previously worked. I wonder whether he’s looking to be caught. It seems to me, he’s going from place to place to place - I think he’s escalating.

"It may have been partially financial, it may have been a grievance. But he wouldn’t have taken a gun, in my view, and fired it recklessly if he hadn’t been severely depressed.

"He’d lost all hope. He didn’t feel like living.

"He hasn’t done this before. It seems grossly disproportionate to what he’s previously been convicted for.

"Essentially he can’t commit suicide by his own hands because that’s a step too far for him, but he wants to kill himself. I can get the cops to do it for me."

The prosecution's psychiatrist, Dr Prakash Raviraj, however rejected the suggestion of "suicide by cop". He told the court: "I would not agree that he was severely depressed.

"Moderate depression along with drinking was what I suggest was happening. It was almost bordering onto dependence."

Dr Raviraj also stated Garrett had not shown symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, as his opposite number had claimed. He added: "Everything is pointing in the direction that, when he set out, he had a motivation that he wanted money.

"He moved on from there, he didn’t stop for the police to attend. If he really wanted to be shot by the police, to be killed, that’s not what we’ve heard. There is clear evidence of him acting in a manner that doesn’t go in favour of suicide by cop at all. I have never come across any other case."

Forensic officers outside the Showcase Cinema the night after the shooting
Police at the Showcase Cinema on the night of the shooting -Credit:Liverpool Echo

Garrett too gave evidence during the two-day hearing, telling the court that the combined effect of the various events in his life had "killed him". When questioned as to how he felt towards the Showcase Cinema following the termination of his employment he said: "Not angry towards them, just frustrated - frustrated at myself."

His counsel Paul Lewis asked him: "There were people that worked in the Showcase who presumably worked with you and knew you for a long time. Did you blame any of those individuals?"

Garrett replied: "Not an individual. Just the Showcase itself."

Mr Lewis continued: "Did you have any ill feeling towards any of the staff?"

Garrett said: "No."

Asked about the suggestion of a "motivation of suicide by cop", he stated: "That’s how I was feeling. I’d had enough of everything."

"I don’t think my intentions would have been to hurt someone. Obviously, at that time, I didn't know what my intentions were."

Mr Lewis put to him: "What about self harm. Do you think about that a lot?"

Garrett said: "Yes, and suicide. I don’t go through with the suicide because I love my family too much."

David Birrell, prosecuting, however put to him under cross-examination: "You went to the Showcase Cinema, where you used to work until they sacked you. You had a grudge, didn't you?"

Garrett replied: "I was angry. But I didn’t have a grudge."

On Friday, 12 days shy of his 50th birthday, Garrett was jailed for 14 years. Wearing a grey Nike jumper in the dock and with a cross on show around his neck, he was also handed an additional four years on licence.

Leslie Garrett
Police on Malpas Road

Sentencing him, Judge David Aubrey said: "The footage graphically shows your chilling acts. [Mr Singh] believed he was going to be killed and describes his heart beating out of his chest, and that he has never been so scared in his life.

"This was not an isolated offence of endangering the life of another and causing panic and trepidation to others - it was the beginning of what can only be described as a campaign of terror and fear and causing mayhem, during which many lives were potentially put at risk by your actions. It is fortunate there were no fatalities that night.

"You then drove to the Showcase Cinema on the East Lancashire Road. You knew that cinema.

"You used to work there as a security guard, but lost your job after complaints had been made about your conduct to other members of staff. In my judgment, it is no coincidence you went to that location.

"Whilst the court accepts that you have been subject to childhood trauma and have experienced difficulties with your mental health, in my judgment those factors were not the motivation in the commission of these offences. Anger, alcohol and resentment are constant themes, and I am satisfied they were the catalysts for that which you did.

"I am satisfied that you were not seeking to place yourself in a position where trained police officers would have had no alternative but to take drastic and fatal action. You had every opportunity so to do and I am satisfied that, notwithstanding any disorder which I have found, you had no suicidal intent on the night of the offences.

"I am satisfied you knew precisely what you were doing, demanding money from the shop owner whilst holding and discharging a firearm. You appeared to enjoy showing that firearm to customers at the public house.

"You felt powerful and in control that night. I am satisfied that these offences were borne out of anger, alcohol, and resentment.

"You do have previous convictions, but none that aggravate the seriousness of these offences and, save for one offence of common assault in 2003, you have no previous convictions for violence. I do take into account my findings as to your medical condition by way of personal mitigation and the fact that, in the cold light of day, you now regret your actions.

"You are a very unpredictable person. On the night in question, you were behaving irrationally and placing lives at risk.

"I remind myself that a sentence of life imprisonment is a sentence of last resort. l do not consider that a determinate sentence provides sufficient protection to members of the public but, bearing in mind your age and the length of the custodial term you will be obliged or may have to serve, the court stands back from imposing a sentence of life imprisonment and the court will impose an extended sentence."

Don't miss the biggest and breaking stories by signing up to the Echo Daily newsletter here