A MANCHESTER judge has jailed a “despicable” pair of thieves who ransacked the home of an elderly couple after conning their way in.
Martin and Winifred Ward, both 42, faked illness to gain access to the home of 94-year-old Roscommon woman Maureen Fox and her husband Frank, 92, in Oldham last September.
As the pensioners set about making a cup of tea for their unexpected guests - who claimed drug addict Winifred Ward was ill and needed a drink - the thief made her way to the upstairs toilet.
While out of sight she ransacked the Foxes’ bedrooms before stealing two £80 mobile phones that the couple used for emergencies, Manchester's Minshull Street Crown Court heard this week.
The Wards, who also live in Oldham and have 45 previous convictions between them, were arrested after Mr Fox handed over CTV from their property to the police.
This week Judge Angela Nield jailed the pair, who both admitted the theft, to 17 months each, calling them “despicable” for preying on the “generational kindness” of Mrs Fox, a retired social worker who is active in the Manchester Roscommon Association, and her husband.
"This was a frankly despicable offence committed against a couple in their 90s who have lived for a significant period of time quite happily at their home address and who clearly remain relatively active and who, whatever your protestations to the contrary, you must have seen the minute you spoke to them were vulnerable because of their age,” she said in sentencing.
"Whatever may have been your thoughts previously, it seems to me obvious there was a measure of targeting as soon as their vulnerability was apparent to you,” she added.
"You entered the home of elderly individuals who, either out of kindness or a direct request from you, offered you hospitality and a warm drink. They allowed you access, in innocence and naivety and most open-handedly, to their home and who were repaid by you in taking the only items of value which were on open display.
"It is a sad indictment that in the twilight of their years, they should be placed in that position having lived in security in that home for so long."
Mrs Fox, who told the court she partly blamed herself for letting the thieves into her house, explained: "I would make anyone a cup of tea, I didn't think there was any trouble. It's just in my nature to get someone a cup of tea. When I was younger and working I used to love to get a cup of coffee or tea.”
She added: “I'm very angry for what they did to me. There were nights when I couldn't sleep. Every time I heard a bit of noise I thought it was someone trying to get into the house. It definitely made me feel less safe in my own house.
"She [Ward] said she was having women's problems so I thought I best make her a cup of tea. I had just made the scones myself. I never thought anybody would do that to us, especially after we were just speaking to her."