Canterbury man threatened with gun by racist neighbour from hell

A Bermudian man that has lived in the UK for over twenty years has told how his “evil” neighbour pulled a gun on him and threatened to “blow his baboon brains out” just because of the colour of his skin.

Dwayne Burrows, 62, has relived the frightening encounter with racist Craig Howlett, who was caught on camera brandishing what turned out to be an imitation firearm.

Canterbury Crown Court heard Mr Burrows had been taking an early morning stroll to buy milk when he came under fire from an angry Howlett in the street.

The foul-mouthed 56-year-old initially threatened to cut Mr Burrows’ throat and branded him a “black bloodclaat” – a Jamaican Patois term for blood cloth, or sanitary product, and often used in a similar manner to the F-word.

Mr Burrows, who is from Bermuda, challenged Howlett but, fearing his downstairs neighbour had a knife, hastily continued on his way to the supermarket.

However, as he made his way back home to Starle Close, Canterbury, just 10 minutes later, he was confronted for a second – and more sinister – time.

On this occasion Howlett pulled a gun out from behind his back and, pointing it at Mr Burrows, told him: “I’m going to blow your f***ing baboon brains out”.

The terrified victim then heard a clicking sound as Howlett repeated his chilling threat and subjected him to further racist abuse.

Jurors heard that somewhat bizarrely it was Howlett who dialled 999, falsely reporting that he was the one who had been threatened.

Once in custody he continued to point the finger of blame at Mr Burrows, and even referred to him as a “F***ing n*****.”

He also claimed that police had done so little in response to his previous reports about his neighbour’s behaviour that he bought the ball bearing gun out of fear.

Howlett, who has previous convictions dating back 23 years for offences including harassment, threats to kill, possessing an offensive weapon and malicious communication, was living at the property to help look after the permanent resident.

Jurors heard there was “a sense of ill-feeling” between the two men at the time of the incident on August 12 last year.

Giving evidence, Mr Burrows said he had been in dispute with his downstairs neighbours over dogs barking and racist abuse for about two months

On the day of the encounter, he had left his home just before 7am to walk the short distance to the shop.

But within seconds and without warning, Howlett came running towards him.

Mr Burrows told the court: “I was cutting across the grass (outside Howlett’s property) when this guy came running out the house.

“I was like ‘What the heck!’ because he said something about my throat. He must have been in the house, in the doorway, to see me so fast.

“He called me racist crap. He was calling me ‘You black bloodclaat.’ I’m not even Jamaican.

“I said ‘What’s that all about, man?’ He just kept calling me names.

“He was telling me he was going to cut my throat. He said ‘I’ll cut your black bloodclaat throat.”

Mr Burrows then recalled the moment on his return from the shops that Howlett pulled the gun from behind his back and pointed it at him.

“I was like ‘This guy’s crazy’. He was just there. I panicked. It was like he was waiting for me,” he told the court.

“His hand was behind his back. He then pulled his arm out and said ‘I’ll blow your f***ing baboon brains out!’

“I didn’t know what to do. I was talking to myself ‘It’s not real’. He kept calling me names and I was asking ‘Why you calling me names?’

Demonstrating the clicking noise he heard, Mr Burrows said he did not know whether it came from Howlett’s mouth or the weapon itself.

“I thought he was going to take me out. I just panicked,” he added.

The court heard he fled back to his home, only for police to turn up at his door after Howlett had reported him.

Despite claiming he was the one under threat, Howlett told officers he would “kill him”, before adding: “The only person who’ll need an ambulance will be him.”

Prosecutor Kieran Brand told the jury Howlett denied the incident as alleged “in its entirety”.

But he said the CCTV footage had actually portrayed him in his “true colours” – a nod to the Cyndi Lauper hit that could ironically be heard playing in the background of the footage.

“The defendant said it was Mr Burrows who had threatened him and a neighbour over the previous days and he had reported this on a number of occasions,” Mr Brand said.

“He said he had become so frightened at how little had been done by the police that he bought a BB gun in case the man came into his house.

“But he said he never used it to threaten anyone and may have been seen with it in his garden, examining and checking it after he had bought it, which may be why the false allegation had been made against him.”

His hand was behind his back. He then pulled his arm out and said ‘I’ll blow your f***ing baboon brains out!’…
Mr Brand added however that Howlett intended to cause his neighbour to fear violence would be used against him, and that his offensive language “clearly demonstrated his racial hostility”.

Howlett denied possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence, making a threat to kill Mr Burrows, and racially aggravated fear or provocation of violence but was found guilty of all charges.

He did not give evidence and no witnesses were called on his behalf.

The court was told at his sentencing hearing that he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

Saul Herman, defending, said Howlett had bought the lawful gun “in anticipation” of Mr Burrows entering his property and had not planned to produce as he had on the day.

Jailing Howlett for two years and three months, Recorder Vivian Walters said his racially motivated actions had “clearly” caused alarm and distress to his victim.

A five-year restraining order was also made banning him from any contact with his neighbour.

Speaking after the sentencing, Mr Burrows told KentOnline he hopes Howlett will now see the error of his ways, but he holds out little hope.

“He’s evil – but I don’t hate him,” he said.

“I didn’t want to see him get locked up for a long time, because he’s 50 something, but he’s just wrong.

“He didn’t do it for any other reason than the colour of somebody’s skin.

“I just wish he would change his view.

“I don’t think prison is going to help him. He’s just got to realise that because you’re a different colour, it doesn’t make a difference.

“This is what racism does, it goes so deep.

“Some people just think because someone else is a different colour or they’re not British or they’re not this or they’re not that, it gives them all the power in the world to say anything they want or do anything they want, and they’re not going to be held accountable for their actions.

“I’m just glad it’s over, and hopefully there’s no retaliation.”

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