Suspect in court over Morden betting shop murder


The attack shocked the community when it happened earlier this year.

By Thomas Paul

A 21-year-old man charged with the murder of a Ladbrokes betting shop manager appeared at Southwark Crown Court last week.

Homeless Shafique Ahmad Aarij was due to enter a plea but the hearing was adjourned until Wednesday September 25.

He is accused of murdering Andrew Iacovou, 55, in the Aberconway Road shop, Morden, on Saturday May 25.

Father-of-three Mr Iacovou died from blunt trauma to the head.

He had worked for Ladbrokes for 20 years and lived with his disabled wife Anita and two of his children in North Cheam.

Mr Iacovou was working a “lone staffer” shift when he was killed – a practice that pressure group Campaign for Fairer Gambling (CFFG) is trying to put an immediate stop to.

CFFG spokesman Adrian Parkinson, a former senior manager with a high-street betting chain, said lone staffing had become a problem since 2006 with the increase of highly addictive roulette machines.

The machines require no input from the staff for a client to operate and generate high returns, prompting betting shops to promote them over traditional gambling.

Since their introduction, the number of betting shop staff has fallen by 6,000 but the number of betting shops has increased by about 500 – there are now around 40,000 people employed across the industry.

Major high street chains including Ladbrokes, Betfred and Coral have adopted a policy of lone staffing to cut jobs and save money, according to CFFG, but it praised William Hill for refusing to follow suit.

Last year the BBC’s Panorama investigated the spread of violence in betting shops and it made for uncomfortable viewing for the burgeoning gambling industry.

Of the 39 shops visited during the investigation, 23 acts of violence and anti-social behaviour were witnessed. Windows were seen being smashed, machines attacked and shop workers verbally abused.

Often a single member of staff will work a 12-hour shift from 10am to 10pm.

There is usually very little in the way of safety systems to protect staff. Often a betting shop counter will have a bandit screen but they are not bullet proof or shatter proof, and they will usually have CCTV to act as a deterrent to potential attackers.

Parkinson explained staff are expected to uphold the licensing objectives – keeping crime out of gambling, ensuring gambling is fair and protecting the young and vulnerable.

He said: “You can’t have a single member of staff keeping under 18s out of the shop, dealing with problem gamblers on machines and upholding the licensing objectives.

“You can’t have one member of staff sat in a shop for 12 to 14 hours doing that effectively.    

“The industry executives can’t tell me that a woman, by herself, will be able to deal with four youths or other troublemakers that have come in to use the machines without putting herself in danger.”

The CFFG have written to  MPs to try and get proper safety legislation introduced.

They found themselves accused by some people in the industry of being “anti-gambling” and pro-unions”.

Mr Parker said: “We are not anti-gambling, we are pro-gambling and we have nothing to do with any unions, but we just think it should be done in a safe and fair way that doesn’t put staff in danger.”

Ladbrokes have not commented on its lone staffing policy but have set up a JustGiving page to assist Mr Iacovou’s family.

They have donated an initial £10,000 and the total now raised stands at over £170,000.

Picture courtesy of Ray Forster, with thanks

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