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Theft of handbag from vulnerable pensioner ‘about as mean an offence I can think of’

A pensioner who was days away from going on holiday had her handbag containing £250 stolen by an opportunist thief in a Co Armagh Tesco store.

Darren Flowers, 43, of Legahory Court, Craigavon appeared before Magistrates’ this week, charged with theft and criminal damage.

The court heard that on October 19 last year police were called in relation to the theft of a handbag from the Tesco store in Craigavon.

CCTV images from October 16 identified Flowers as the thief, and when police arrived at his home, he immediately gave up the handbag but told police he had cut up the debit cards inside.

He also told police that there wasn’t £250 in bank notes as claimed by the injured party.

During interview, Flowers admitted that it was a “crime of opportunity” as opposed to a pre-meditated theft.

Defence counsel for Flowers said there had been a gap in his record and he had no previous convictions for theft, adding it was an extremely mean offence.

District Judge, Bernie Kelly, said she wasn’t impressed given the length of time he took to come to court with the £250.

“Bringing the money immediately would have been genuine,” she said. “But give them forever! As a result this has gone over my runway. I give two weeks max, but this was three months later.”

Judge Kelly went on to read out a victim impact statement from the injured party.

“Basically, she is very anxious whenever she goes out now and has to take greater steps to know where her handbag is at all times,” she read.

“She was going on holidays a few days later and this completely spoiled that experience.

“On the day in question this woman was returning from hospital after her heart had been running too fast, this is a lady who had previously suffered two heart attacks and her heart was racing dangerously that day.

“Both she and her husband were pensioners and £250 was a significant amount of money to them.”

Judge Kelly added that the victim was a pensioner with a history of heart attacks, who was going on holiday and she could not think of any more aggravating features; other than taking sweets from a child in a pram, this was one of the meanest offences she could think of.

In sentencing Flowers to four months in prison, suspended for two years, judge Kelly added: “This was a very serious offence and there’s an element to this that men don’t appreciate; a woman’s handbag contains photos, memorial cards, baby photos, irreplaceable items – you are basically stealing her memories.

“You picked on a very vulnerable individual who could ill-afford to lose £250, it’s about as mean an offence I can think of. Every day you left her without that money you reduce its value, and that’s even meaner.”

Flowers was also ordered to pay a compensation order of £250.


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