Nathan Ashton: developed a gambling habit early in his career
PICTURE: Getty Images
By James Burn 8:00aM 21 JUL 2016
A FORMER professional footballer who represented England at youth level has been jailed for 15 years after turning to armed robbery to cover gambling debts.
Nathan Ashton, whose clubs included Fulham, Crystal Palace and Charlton, targeted betting shops across London and the South East.
Along with former Scottish League player Ohmar Pike, the pair stole nearly £15,000 from eight raids.
In one robbery, a cashier “fell to his knees and had a panic attack and begged for his life”, a court heard.
Ashton, who made 20 appearances for England teams from under-16 to under-19 level, developed a gambling habit as a footballer.
The 29-year-old apparently faced debts of nearly £100,000.
He started robbing betting shops after a friend suggested it was an easy way to raise cash, Kingston Crown Court heard.
Ashton carried out two raids alone in February last year, and eight with former Gretna FC player Pike, 27, between May and October 2015.
Father-of-two Pike, who played for the Scottish club for 18 months before they went into administration in 2008, became involved after he also got into debt.
Roughly £14,500 in cash was stolen from Paddy Power, William Hill and Coral betting shops.
Ashton, who admitted his role in the raids, was jailed for 15 years and Pike, found guilty by a jury last week, was jailed for 11 years.
Judge Susan Tapping told Ashton: “You were armed with a weapon, usually in a plastic bag or wrapped in plastic. You carried what two witnesses described as a black handgun.
“It may well have been an imitation, but it looked realistic so was very frightening.”
The judge added to Pike: “You also had a promising life until last year, and the disintegration of it is very sad, particularly for your children, but perhaps you should have thought of them first and not just now.”
Michelle Clarke, defending Ashton, said: “He was a very talented young footballer.
“He could cope with the gambling while he was still earning. But sadly, when he was 22, he was accused of rape, and it took seven or eight months for the matter to come to trial.
“He had the trial, and he was found not guilty. But he then found himself, in effect, having lost his livelihood. He was trying to maintain a lifestyle that he plainly could not sustain.”