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From student armed robber to graduate to drug dealer – the Hull marketing executive with appetite for destruction

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It all seemed to be going perfectly to plan with a highly promising, worthwhile and valuable career looming as a social worker but the dream slowly disintegrated and turned into a complete nightmare.

Even when highly regarded University of Hull student Tom Waller hit hard times, turning to drugs and ending up in prison, he managed to bounce back a couple of years later and got a second chance to make something of his life. His downfall and descent into disaster could not have been predicted when he began his university degree and he managed to complete two years of it successfully before the menace of drugs took hold.


Waller, now 34, of Hull, started taking more and more drugs and his addiction inevitably took a severe toll on his studies. The depths to which he inexorably stooped seem incredible because he came from a good background and was clearly hardworking but, so bad was his craving for drugs that he became involved in two shockingly violent attempts in 2013 to get his hands on quick cash to spend on drugs and pay off his drug debts.

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One of them was a brazen attempted robbery on a Bargain Booze store in Hull, using an ingenious but frightening weapon, a nine-inch carving knife strapped to a golf club. Waller was masked, hooded, wearing a scarf over his mouth and was highly intimidating and threatening when he burst into the store in Hull brandishing the fearsome weapon. But he was foiled by the quick-thinking and brave shopkeeper, who grabbed it and turned it on Waller, jabbing him with the blade before forcing him out of his shop.


Waller also targeted a Betfred shop two days earlier and robbed a 15-year-old girl of a handbag after going into the premises armed with a carving knife and demanding cash. A customer grabbed a chair to protect himself and there was a tussle. Waller told the cashier: “Give us some cash or I will hurt him.” He escaped with £80 cash.




Tom Waller abandoned his social work degree at the University of Hull.

Waller was caught after he left his bicycle outside Bargain Booze and later made the unbelievable mistake of telephoning the police to report it stolen. He was later jailed at Hull Crown Court for five years. Waller, then aged 26, told the court at the time: “My recent abhorrent and, frankly, disgraceful actions are inexcusable under any circumstances. I am truly sorry for the grief I have caused my victims and the shame I have brought to my family.

“I wanted to ask my university tutors for a reference but I was too ashamed, particularly given the subject I was doing and the contrast between who they know me to be and my recent actions.” He claimed in 2013: “I have had plenty of time to seriously reflect on where my life is heading. The one thing I am left with is an overwhelming sense of clarity, which has led me to the most important epiphany of my life.”

Judge Michael Mettyear told Waller in 2013: “You are clearly a young man who has had advantages in life. You are educated and articulate and your life has now been blighted by the drugs you take. You had gone to Hull University and you had been hoping to do well there until the addiction to heroin emerged or increased.”



A CCTV still of student Tom Waller trying to rob Bargain Booze in Hull with a golf club with a knife tied to the end
A CCTV still of student Tom Waller trying to rob Bargain Booze in Hull with a golf club with a knife tied to the end

Waller claimed in 2013 that he had been led to an “epiphany” – and a rebirth of his hopes and dreams seemed very much on the cards. He was released from prison in September 2015 and, in the words of his barrister, Richard Thompson, thought “that was the end of it”.

Waller clearly had good intentions and had a welcome piece of good luck when he was given a golden opportunity to make a better life for himself. He had made good progress while he was in prison. He must have Impressed a local company that took on ex-offenders and his road to rehabilitation looked assured when he was given employment as a digital marketing executive, based in Willerby.

Waller’s transformation from drug-addicted drop-out student and jailed robber to marketing expert was a credit to his efforts and his ability to reinvent himself after a very unfortunate fall from grace. He was off drugs and he had his own home in the Willerby area.

To cap it all, he even had that must-have accessory for every upwardly mobile young business professional, the solidly middle class boast of a LinkedIn profile, with 226 connections, and complete with a photograph of him looking suitably serious wearing a dinner jacket and a bow tie.

He described himself as a “client executive” and boasted: “I have a good understanding of all the main digital marketing channels, PPC, Display, Google Shopping, Affiliates, SEO and Paid Social. My specialties are in PPC, Affiliates and Google shopping/feed management and optimisation.”

He said that he had “been responsible for many tasks for several clients” and was able to “create campaigns and set up targeting based on my particular client’s needs” and the lengthy list of accomplishments, heavily filled with corporate-speak jargon, continued at length, boasting of “managing and developing client relationships”. Sadly, the switch from jailbird to marketing and business guru was not to last.

Waller became lonely and isolated, with his life dominated by work, and because he was mixing with fellow ex-offenders, even including prisoners nearing the end of life sentences, he started to drink. He made the mistake of thinking that he would be able to handle the alcohol because it was different from drugs but he slipped into using drugs recreationally.

He ended up on a slippery slope and he became involved in heavier drug use, including highly addictive Class A drugs. He lost his job and ended up in what his barrister said was a “bad state”.

The dream turned full circle and became a nightmare when, by November 2019, Waller was dealing heroin and a psychoactive substance on the streets. He was caught with a wallet full of £541 cash and, when police searched his home, they found about £1,900 tablets that he was going to sell to raise money for his own heroin use and to pay a drug debt. Cannabis and methadone were also found.

Worse was to come when Waller allowed the clean and enviable housing association flat that he had been given to be taken over by drug dealers from Leeds. Police spotted him dealing on the streets in Queens Road, Hull, in October last year and went to the flat where he had been living, in Beverley Road.



Tom Waller was jailed for three years
Tom Waller was jailed for three years

There they found an accomplice, Stephen Pickett, 21, from Guiseley, Leeds, who was looking after the drugs while Waller did the leg work of selling them on the streets. Pickett had £1,240 on him, despite only arriving there the previous day, proving just how lucrative the drugs trade was.

Waller was jailed at Hull Crown Court this week for three years after admitting a series of drugs offences from the two separate spells of dealing. Pickett was jailed for two years.

Judge Mark Bury told him: “You are essentially a decent person who has gone off the rails badly through your own addictive personality.”

Waller had been given a chance by a housing association and lived in a “nice clean” flat but he allowed it to be taken over by Leeds drug dealers. “You let a lot of people down, including yourself, because you went back to drugs in a big way,” said Judge Bury.

Even now, it seems that Waller has hopes of resuming his studies and once again trying to make a fresh start. He will be hoping that, when he emerges from his latest spell in prison, he will be able to beat the lure of the drugs world for good.





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