Watch the moment a police officer tried to stop Geoff Marshall rampaging through the streets of Norton Fitzwarren
A man who rammed a US army truck into a police roadblock in Somerset has been jailed for two years.
Marshall used a two-and-half tonne truck to drive at his partner’s home in September – wrecking her car in the process.
When police arrived, they found him standing in the driveway holding a chainsaw. Officers approached him and he lifted the chainsaw above his head.
Officers retreated and he then got into the military truck, using it to ram past a police roadblock. He damaged multiple other vehicles on the street in the process.
The incident followed an argument between Marshall and his ex at their home in Norton Fitzwarren, near Taunton, over text messages she had found on his mobile phone.
Geoff Marshall, 41, had already pleaded guilty to assault and criminal damage charges when he was sentenced at Taunton Crown Court which was sitting at North Somerset Courthouse on 10 November.
Sentencing him to two years in prison, Judge Burgess KC said the 41-year-old was a man of "good character" who was in a "desperate state" and acted "wholly out of character".
Marshall also told the court he was sorry for his actions, saying he was in the "midst of a breakdown".
On 10 September, the 41-year-old went on what was described by the prosecution as a “reign of terror”, driving the green flatbed truck through a roadblock, destroying four Avon and Somerset Police vehicles and damaging many other cars parked nearby.
Footage filmed by a neighbour shows how after forcing himself through the cars, Marshall drove away from the otherwise quiet street he lived on, Station Road.
Watch footage filmed by a neighbour showing Marshall driving away in the truck
'I've never felt so close to death'
In court, police officers who arrived on the scene described the long-term impact the events on 10 September have had on them. One said they have "never felt so close to death".
Marshall was arrested after police negotiators persuaded him not to take his own life, North Somerset Magistrates’ Court heard.
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When officers arrived at their home in Station Road, they found the defendant already behind the wheel of the 1958 M35 truck.
“There’s no way Marshall was not aware of the danger or couldn’t see me standing there," one officer said.
"Colleagues told me how close they were to a chainsaw he was wielding. In nearly four years of policing, I’ve never felt quite so close to death.
"It’s nothing short of a miracle that nobody was killed in the incident.”
Also speaking of the effect of Marshall's rampage, another officer said: “I found colleagues crying and when I’ve heard loud mechanical noises I’ve cried myself.”
In mitigation, which was read out by the judge as Marshall was representing himself, his friends described him as being of good character.
“He’s always been reliable, responsible and a great help to me with work and other projects outside the working environment. His actions on the day are totally out of character," one statement read.
"He loves his family and is a devoted dad to his children. Issues have arisen, sadly, that have caused this action. I hope the court may find leniency and help him to move forward. I am confident with guidance Mr Marshall will not fail to upload high standard of conduct.”
Another said: “He’s gentle, kind and generous - always willing to help friends in need. We are praying for Geoff and hope he gets the help and support he needs.”
'I was in the midst of a mental breakdown'
Addressing the court, Marshall apologised for the events of 10 September, saying he was in the "midst of a breakdown".
“I would like to formally apologise to all parties affected by my actions," he said. "I panicked that I would not see my children."
Marshall described how his wife found messages from someone he was speaking to after they had agreed to divorce. Financially they could not afford to separate and so continued living together.
He told the court: “My emotional state was degrading daily. The arrival of police cars sent me into a blind panic.”
He said he feared not being able to see his children, so climbed into the nearest vehicle he could, intending to drive somewhere to end his life.
“I never intended to harm anyone or do any damage," he said.
“I was in the midst of a mental breakdown and ask for clemency."
'I accept you were in a desperate state and acted in a way that was wholly out of character'
Sentencing him to two years in prison, Judge Burgess KC said: "I propose to sentence you as a man of effective good character and I take particular note of the content of the character references.
"You are deeply ashamed, now you reflect on it, about how you behaved on that day. It’s apparent to me that shame is coupled with remorse and contrition.
"I accept you were in a desperate state and that caused you to act in a way that was wholly out of character.
"I’m not persuaded that you intended to cause injury to anyone else. I did feel you intended to cause serious damage, certainly to police vehicles, even though that intent was subordinate to your overriding intention to get away to a place you could take your own life.
"The reality, however, of the way you behaved was you were extremely reckless at the very least to cause injury, if not death, of, in particular, police officers. A number of them were, understandably, terrified. That’s powerfully apparent."
The judge told Marshall he will spend part of the 24-month sentence in custody, but may be released sooner subject to his licence.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Claire Millington from Avon and Somerset Police said: “Members of the public and police officers feared for their safety, and it is only through the efforts of officers that no-one was seriously injured.
“I commend the bravery of my colleagues who attended on that day. Their selfless decisions to place themselves in harm’s way, and make repeated attempts to stop the vehicle saw them prioritise the public’s safety.”
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