Knifeman in creepy clown suit invaded school playground and stared at children

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    A knife-wielding man who showed up to a primary school dressed as a clown has dodged jail after claiming it was a prank.

    Drelle Willis, 21, stood on the AstroTurf of a primary school in Manchester wearing the creepy mask, "staring" at children in a threatening way on September 22, Manchester Crown Court heard.

    When pupils at the Wilbraham Primary School moved away from him, Willis followed them, even when the children seemed to be in distress.

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    The school's headteacher was eventually forced to bring the "absolutely petrified" children inside and called 999 shortly after 5pm, claiming Willis was "exhibiting threatening behaviour", prosecutor Mark Pritchard said.

    "[The headteacher] said usually the AstroTurf is open for public use after hours, and children and families often play there.

    "He told the 999 call handler that the defendant was stood staring at the children and moving towards them in a threatening manner.

    "When the children moved away he would follow them, even if they were distressed."

    Half an hour later, police found Willis near to the school and he was found to have a large kitchen knife hidden up his sleeve.

    He admitted possession of the knife and said the incident at the school was a "prank".

    On Friday (October 21) Willis was given a suspended sentence.

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    Defending, Rebecca Caulfield said her client had been abused by his mum and stepdad during his childhood and moved in with his grandmother as a result.

    He also has learning difficulties and a diagnosis of autism, she added.

    Caulfield said Willis was pushed over the edge after he received "unexpected" contact from his stepdad on the day of the incident and took the kitchen knife and clown mask from his grandmother's house to prank him.

    She said: "He was upset about the whole situation. He didn't know how to react to the situation. He was using it to prank him.

    "The knife was there for protection, as in the past his stepfather had threatened him."

    Caulfield said it would be "remiss" of her to ignore the impact her client's actions had on children at the school.

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    She said Willis "regretful and remorseful" and that people with autism often don't understand the consequences of their actions.

    Judge Recorder Nicholas Williams said: "When someone carries a knife in public, even if they believe for their own protection, the risk that someone gets hurt or even killed, increases dramatically.

    "When knives are produced in a situation where unfortunately that, too often, is what actually happens.

    "The message must go out that carrying knives in public is simply not acceptable and will be dealt with by the courts."

    Willis has been handed a six-month prison sentence suspended for 12 months, and has also been banned from entering a certain area in Manchester.


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