A Motherwell man wished he hadn’t messed with three Eastern European workers after a robbery bid went badly wrong.
James Rooney was left tied up on the floor and nursing bruises, with his would-be victims telling the hapless assailant ‘You picked the wrong house’.
Rooney, a prisoner, appeared at Hamilton Sheriff Court on his 28th birthday.
He admitted assaulting and attempting to rob Igor Grobov and striking Dimo Dimitrov on the head with a knife to his injury.
It happened at a block of flats in Airbles Street, on December 12 last year - just two weeks after Rooney got bail at court in relation to another case.
Paula Russell, prosecuting, said the three Eastern Europeans were work colleagues living in a flat in the block on a temporary basis.
About 7.40am a neighbour heard a man in the close. He was looking through her letterbox, but when she went to the door there was no one around.
Ms Russell told the court: “Igor Grobov then left his flat and went to the common close where Rooney was standing with his back to him, facing the exit door.
“Rooney, who had his hood up to cover his face, turned round and brandished a knife towards Grobov, demanding money and bank cards.
“Grobov said he had no money with him as it was upstairs in his flat.
“Rooney told him they would go there and pressed the knife against his back. He walked Grobov up to the flat. Grobov turned to face him, fearing he was about to be stabbed.
“Rooney pushed him into a bedroom where he continued to brandish the knife while demanding cash and cards.
“However, Grobov picked up a wooden chair, forcing Rooney to back into the hallway. He was calling on Dimo Dimitrov to assist him.
“A neighbour then heard loud noises and a voice in what wasn’t a Scottish accent shout ‘You’ve picked the wrong house’. The neighbour immediately called the police.
“Dimitrov, seeing Rooney had a knife, grabbed him by the neck whilst Grobov tried to grab the blade.
“Rooney then struck Dimitrov on the head with the knife. There was a struggle during which Grobov and Dimitrov subdued the accused, restraining him on the floor.
“The knife was kicked away from him.
“The disturbance had woken up a third man living in the flat. He also contacted the police, but before the officers arrived the three men got a rope and bound Rooney’s hands and feet together.
“Police found Rooney tied up and face down on the floor. He was untied and taken to University Hospital Wishaw for assessment. He was found to have bruising to his face and chest. He was then taken to the police station.
“Dimitrov suffered two small cuts to his forehead and eyebrow, but did not wish medical attention.”
Defence lawyer Diarmid Bruce admitted: “These men were brave and my client’s behaviour was despicable. He ended up with injuries, but they were perfectly entitled to defend themselves and I don’t criticise them.”
Mr Bruce said Rooney has had a difficult background, starting when his two-year-old brother died in a house fire when Rooney himself was only three.
His criminal record includes a High Court conviction at the age of 15.
The lawyer added: “His mental health has been poor and he was diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic.
“Two years ago he needed 60 stitches in his face after being stabbed. He has struggled to cope with the disfigurement.
“At the time of this incident he had taken alcohol and Valium. He can’t remember what happened but believes he was looking for a friend’s flat.
“Of his behaviour he says ‘It’s not me’ as he has no crimes of dishonesty on his record.”
Jailing Rooney for 27 months, Sheriff Thomas Millar told him: “The use of knives will not be tolerated and anyone who uses one will be dealt with severely.
“I take account of your difficult background, but a custodial sentence is inevitable.
“It would have been three years but for your guilty pleas and I’ll backdate it to December 13 to take account of time spent in custody.”