Sunday 18 February 2018

Trump suspect (20) was obsessed with 'Robot Wars'

Police remove Michael Sandford as presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a casino in Las Vegas. Photo: AP
Police remove Michael Sandford as presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks at a casino in Las Vegas. Photo: AP

Robert Mendick

The young British man accused of attempting to assassinate Donald Trump at a Las Vegas rally was a highly intelligent schoolboy who was "obsessed" with the TV series 'Robot Wars'.

Michael Sandford (20), who suffers from a form of autism, is alleged to have tried to grab a police officer's gun in a bid to kill Trump, the hugely controversial Republican candidate for President.

He told police he had plotted to assassinate the Republican candidate for a year. He had taken shooting lessons in recent days, and had believed he would die during the bid.

Sandford, from Dorking in Surrey, bought robots that had appeared in the 'Robot Wars' television programme, and rebuilt them for live roadshows.

It is claimed that in 2014, at about the time he is thought to have travelled to the US, he suddenly decided to sell his collection.

Investigators will try to establish whether the sale of the robots funded his trip to America.

John Findlay, an expert behind the original TV show, said he had bought and sold robots to Sandford until he suddenly "disappeared". Mr Findlay told 'The Mirror': "I'm totally shocked. When I saw his picture it was just totally freaky.

"He was quite active in the robot community for a while - buying famous robots from the show. He was a bit obsessed."

Mr Findlay said Sandford, who went to The Ashcombe School in Dorking, contacted him in June 2014 saying he needed to sell his robots.

Friends spoke of their shock that Sandford had been arrested for plotting to kill Trump.

It is thought he travelled to the US over a year ago to stay with a girlfriend in Hoboken, New Jersey. US prosecutors claim he then drove to California in a black BMW and then went on to Nevada with the intention of "engaging in an act of physical violence against Donald J Trump". The offence carries a 10-year jail term.

Julie Debnam (56), whose son went to primary school with Sandford, told 'The Telegraph': "He was a very nice normal child growing up. He had a few issues, but in fact he was very intelligent."

Mark Charman, who lives in the same block as the family, told 'The Standard': "I am utterly gobsmacked by this. I can't believe it's the same person. He is such a calm, pleasant guy and he never expressed any political views to me really."

Sandford was denied bail on Monday at a District Court in Nevada, where he appeared charged with "an act of violence on restricted grounds".

Federal Magistrate Judge George Foley declined to release Sandford, who appeared before him in leg irons, over concerns he was a potential danger to the community and a flight risk.

A federal public defender told the court he was autistic and Sandford did not enter a plea.

The judge was also told he had been treated for obsessive compulsive disorder and anorexia as a youngster. According to court research Sandford did not have permission to be in the US and was unemployed. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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