PICTURE: MARK JAMIESON
A pensioner is “living in fear” after a sneak thief broke in and stole £360 from her handbag at her home in sheltered housing accommodation in a north coast seaside resort, a court heard on Monday.
Samuel Lee Chad McIlroy (31), of Buskin Way, Coleraine, pleaded guilty to burglary and as well as receiving a suspended jail term for what was his first offence he was also ordered to pay £1,000 compensation to the 74-year-old “vulnerable” victim from Portrush.
McIlroy appeared at Coleraine Magistrates Court where a prosecutor said the victim had been on a night out and the next morning she discovered her kitchen window open. Later, when she went to do grocery shopping she discovered £360 missing from her handbag.
Police found fingerprints on the window frame which matched McIlroy and during a PSNI interview he said he had “no recollection” of the night the offence happened last October but accepted it was him. He said during that period he was drinking heavily and apologised and offered to pay the money back.
A defence lawyer said the offence was “totally out of character”. She said McIlroy, who is father to a young child, had gone “off the rails” as a result of “very severe personal difficulties”.
The solicitor added: “He is totally ashamed of himself, so ashamed that he hasn’t mentioned this to his own family”. The lawyer said McIlroy looks after his own own “elderly grandmother” and couldn’t believe what he had done.
“He understands how he would feel if it happened to his own grandmother,” said the solicitor who said the defendant had asked that his apology be passed on to the victim. The lawyer said full restitution for the stolen money had been brought to court.
After reading a Victim Impact Statement, Deputy District Judge Paul Conway said burglaries are “reprehensible” and were an “invasion of privacy”, however whenever the injured party is an elderly lady living on her own “it’s far beyond the word reprehensible”.
The judge said the victim was “vulnerable”. He told the defendant: “She is now living in fear because of the invasion which you perpetrated on her.”.
He said if the victim had been present in the property at the time or if McIlroy had a record he would have been jailed immediately. The judge said he took into account the defendant’s personal situation and said it would do “more harm than good” if he was jailed although he stressed that did not detract from the seriousness of the offence.
Imposing a six months jail term, suspended for a year, the judge told McIlroy that if he comes back to court in that period he would be going to prison.
The judge added that the victim had been “left in a very anxious state and for that you will give her compensation”.
Judge Conway ordered that McIlroy pays her £1,000 which includes the stolen £360.