Man jailed for pensioner burglary


A burglar whose terrified 86-year-old victim suffered a suspected heart attack has been jailed for 16 months.

Barbara Haynes, from Lancaster, died eight weeks after William Hartley climbed through a window of her home and prompted her to rush into her bathroom in horror and lock the door.

She alerted police by pulling an emergency cord and Hartley fled empty-handed but the pensioner later felt unwell and had to be taken to hospital.

The widow was eventually fit enough to return home but her daughter told Preston Crown Court she was "never the same" after the break-in in the early hours of February 15 and was noticeably more frail.

Fingerprints on the window of the address in Wheatfield Court were traced to the defendant who was arrested and told officers he had been out drinking and had taken valium.

He could not accept - and still does not believe - he was capable of such an offence as he changed his plea to guilty on the day of the scheduled trial.

Hartley, of Sun Street, Lancaster, then committed a public order offence while on bail and beat up his girlfriend a day after pleading guilty to the burglary.

His counsel, Chris Hudson, explained Hartley had alcohol and drug problems which all stemmed from the break-up of his parents' marriage.

He submitted that a community order would be appropriate so his client could continue to address his addictions but Judge Norman Wright dismissed his plea and imposed an immediate custodial sentence.

David Traynor, prosecuting, said Mrs Haynes was woken in her bedroom by the figure of Hartley whose foot was on the window sill.

When later interviewed by police, she said although she was "a woman who did not scare easily she was very frightened".

"She was found in a very distressed state," he said. "She was shaking quite violently and she told the officers she was feeling unwell.

"Her daughter says that in her opinion her mother was never the same after the break-in.

"She was worried about returning home and that the defendant would attend again.

"After the incident she appeared to be slower and more frail."

Chris Hudson, defending, conceded it was "a tragic offence" and the victim would "undoubtedly have been petrified" and "would not have known what was to happen".

But he said it was also a tragedy for the defendant and his family.

His parents had separated in his mid-teens and he went to live with his mother in Spain.

His school life was unhappy and he was introduced to cannabis before graduating to harder drugs.

Hartley returned to the UK to his father and gained employment as a chef but his downward spiral of alcohol and drug use continued, said Mr Hudson.

"His personality has been significantly damaged by the consequences of drink and drugs," he said.

He continued to be supported by his girlfriend despite admitting an offence of battery against her which he is due to be sentenced for next Wednesday.

Pleading for a three-year community order, Mr Hudson said: "It might be thought, wrongly, that he would be getting off lightly. It would be a mistake for anyone to think that."

Hartley was "vulnerable" and there was a fear he may take his own life if sent to custody, he said.

The root of his problems was not his fault, he added, saying they were problems which would not effectively be dealt with by treatment in prison.

His father, Graham Hartley, from Morecambe, a manager with Cumbria County Council, gave evidence that his son came from two loving parents but had "struggled in the last few years".

He was willing to support agencies in overcoming his son's addictions.

But Judge Wright ruled an immediate custodial sentence was the only option for "a young man who clearly has problems".

The burglary itself had many aggravating features against a victim who feared the worst from a female perspective, he said.

"It seems even though these proceedings were hanging over your head you could not seem able to lead a life that was crime free," he added.