A YOUNG man who threatened to jump off the roof of a Darlington superstore has appeared in court after admitting causing a public nuisance.

James Thomas George McKnight had to be talked down by specially trained negotiators following the incident on top of Darlington’s TK Maxx store, in Crown Street, on January 22.

At Newton Aycliffe Magistrates’ Court today, David Maddison, prosecuting, said the 24-year-old had been drinking cider and told an officer “not to come closer or he would jump”.

Police cordoned off the street, diverting buses and shutting businesses, while ambulance and fire crews were put on stand-by as McKnight was seen dangling his legs over the edge of the building.

“At one point he’s described as gingerly walking on the edge and wobbled on a couple of occasions,” Mr Maddison said. “Officers were concerned and trained negotiators had to be called and he was eventually talked down and arrested.

“He was interviewed and it seems that the catalyst was a domestic matter.”

He added: “When questioned he just kept answering ‘It does not matter now’ and he was asked if he was serious about taking his own life and again replied ‘It does not matter now’”.

Zoe Passfield, mitigating, questioned whether it was in the public interest to “pursue someone who intended to take their own life”.

She said on the morning of the incident, her client had suffered a personal tragedy and “lost it” before drinking a bottle of brandy and going to the rooftop.

“He found himself on the roof with a genuine desire to end his own life,” Ms Passfield said. “It’s not the case that a police officers intervened; it took some real effort of trained officers not to get him to go forward with his plan.”

Ms Passfield said it was not the first time McKnight had tried to commit suicide but had received an “enormous amount of support” from agencies following the incident.

“He has some real difficulties with communication; he finds it very difficult to talk to people and very difficult to express himself,” she added. “He’s made some very great strides from when he first came to the attention of the police - there were concerns about how he was living and surviving.

“He locked himself in his house for four weeks after this and his mother contacted the police and they drilled through the locks.”

District Judge, Helen Cousins, gave McKnight, of Coleridge Gardens, Darlington, a conditional discharge for 12 months and ordered him to pay a total of £105.

She said: “I appreciate you were in a position of severe distress but this caused an awful lot of disruption.”