A man who attempted to rob a 60-year-old vulnerable woman after following her on the Metro has been jailed.
George Coleman got chatting to the childhood friend, who was recovering from a broken leg, at St Peter’s Metro station in Sunderland.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that the 54-year-old had known her since he was young and spotted her at the station with her two pet dogs on August 15.
He asked her if he could borrow a cigarette and the two began talking, as they hadn’t seen each other for some time.
Bridie Smurthwaite, prosecuting said: “Mr Coleman saw the woman as an easy target and got on the same Metro as her.
“When they reached the Brockley Whins station she left the Metro - that is when Mr Coleman grabbed her handbag and said ‘give me your bag, or else.’”
The court heard how the victim, who suffers from arthritis, was recovering from a broken leg, and had been out walking her dogs to test her mobility after it healed.
She tried to fight him off and the two fell to the ground before Coleman - who was found guilty of attempted robbery after a trial in July - landed on top of the woman, hurting her bad leg.
The woman managed to bite Coleman, of Trinity Walk, South Shields, on the hand and fled the scene, and he told passers-by that her dogs had attacked him.
In a victim statement, the woman said: “About a week after the attack I was still in shock and still feeling pain in my leg.
“I went to A&E, where they told me I had soft tissue damage and I am still in constant pain.
“I’m very frightened to go outside alone.”
The court heard that Coleman, who has 17 previous convictions, was convicted of theft and given a community order after stealing from a vulnerable 84-year-old man in 2011.
Jane Foley, defending, said: “Mr Coleman maintains that he was not responsible for this attack and he has never before received a custodial sentence.
“He does suffer from alcohol addiction, which he is seeking help for, and he is not considered dangerous.
“The use of force was of a minimal nature and the victim, who is prone to exaggeration, said herself that she is someone who falls over quite regularly.
“She was 60 at the time and she is very small but is a rather robust individual, and to say that the incident was planned is something the defence do not accept.”
Sentencing Coleman to two years and nine months in prison, Mr Recorder Keith Miller said: “You followed the woman off of the Metro and asked her for a Metro ticket, which she gave you.
“You then grabbed her handbag, which resulted in a struggle, something that has caused considerable distress.
“It is clear from seeing her that she is a very small lady who is very vulnerable, particularly with her leg.
“I am satisfied that you did target her because she was vulnerable and that there was also a degree of planning. I conclude that you did that when first meeting her at the station.
“You have proved in the past that you are prepared to target someone who is vulnerable.”