A MAN who posed as a council worker to steal from an elderly South Tyneside woman’s home was told by a judge “you thoroughly deserve to go to prison” – and then allowed to walk free from court.
Wayne Johnson, 32, of Australia Grove, South Shields, was convicted of burglary last month after his frail 85-year-old victim gave evidence against him in court by videolink from her home in Hebburn.
The former window cleaner had claimed the council had sent him to carry out a damp inspection when he turned up at the pensioner’s home and stole £50 after she allowed him in.
Paul Currer, prosecuting, told Newcastle Crown Court the raid had caused a “significant degree of fear” to the pensioner, who was worried the burglar would come back and cannot sleep as a result.
The court heard the burglary was categorised at a level where Johnson could have faced between two to six years behind bars.
Yesterday, Mr Recorder Charles Ekins sentenced him to two years, but suspended the prison term for two years, ordered him to undertake 250 hours’ unpaid work and pay £50 compensation.
The judge told him: “Make no bones about it, you thoroughly deserve to go to prison. You are a lucky man.
“Don’t throw this chance back in the court’s face, you won’t get another.”
The judge said he was convinced the planned raid was a “one off” and that Johnson had been making efforts to stay out of trouble and find work.
The victim told jurors at the earlier hearing how the raid had left her frightened and in tears.
The court heard Johnson had turned up at her door claiming he was there to inspect damp on December 3 last year.
Johnson told her he had found dampness and workers would be back that afternoon.
“It was after he had left she realised £50 she had kept in her cabinet to pay a bill was gone.
Johnson admitted to police he was at the house, where he used to clean windows, but said he had only gone to ask the pensioner if she wanted guttering work done and denied taking any money.
Mr Currer told the court: “It was a typical distraction burglary, the victim was deliberately targeted as she was a vulnerable and elderly lady who was taken advantage of.”