Detectives from Operation Castle, our ongoing operating targeting burglars in Merseyside, have welcomed the sentencing of a man following a distraction theft last year in Bootle.
52-year-old Paul Hassall of no fixed abode, but from Liscard, Wirral received a sentence of four years and four months at Liverpool Crown Court today, Tuesday 9 July.
At 1.50pm on Tuesday 9 October 2018, Hassall tricked his way into the Bootle home of a woman in her 80s, claiming to be collecting for a running charity. While inside, he took her purse from her walking aid and left the house, leaving her extremely distressed.
Following extensive enquiries, Hassall was identified and charged with burglary and theft.
Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Inspector Andy McCourt said: "Hassall is a ruthless, heartless offender and it is pleasing to see him removed from the streets. To target elderly and vulnerable victims in such a callous way is beyond belief and I would like to thank the victim and her niece for their stoicism and assistance in the face of an absolutely devastating invasion into a safe home.
"We will continue to work hard to investigate and put before the courts those who seek to steal from vulnerable people in our communities, and will take swift and positive action when people provide information."
In her Victim Personal Statement, the victim said: "I am eighty five years of age and I'd say that I've had a good life. When I was younger I had plenty of friends. We would go out dancing together, I loved it. I've experienced so much during my life. When I was seven years old I was evacuated, to Shropshire, during the war and I did not return to Liverpool until I was ten years old.
"I was always employed during my working life. I worked in Liverpool, in factories all over Bootle from the age of fifteen. I worked in the tin factory, the toffee factory and the sausage factory. I really enjoyed my work. I went from job to job and I retired when I was sixty years old.
"I have lived at my flat for twenty five years. I live alone and have always done so. It's really quiet where I live, it's mainly older people who live here.
"When the man forced his way into my flat I was shocked. He said he was from a running charity. I have always given to charity and I believed him. I was shaking when he opened my purse. I could see the shock on his face when he saw that there was very little in my purse.
"I was so glad when he left. My nerves had gone but I managed to phone the police. I was only expecting one police officer to turn up but quite a few came. I felt safe when the police came out to see me.
"In the days and weeks afterwards I felt very frightened in my flat. Not long after the burglary, I thought that I saw the man outside my address again. It may not have been him but I was so scared that it was.
"I don't want to leave my flat, I'm happy as long as the door is locked and nobody can get in. I don't want to move to a care home. I'm happy where I am. Why should I move, this is my flat and I'm too old to move anyway.
"I hope they stick the man in prison for a long time after what he put me through. He told me what to do in my own flat, telling me to move further back. He asked me three times to give him a fiver. If I was younger I would have thrown him down the stairs myself. How dare somebody do that to me.
"I was frightened that I would have to go to court and I was really frightened that the man would come back and get me.
"Now that I know that the police have caught the man I feel a bit better."
There are a number of steps people can take to help prevent this type of crime so take a few minutes and ensure that any elderly or vulnerable relatives, friends or people in your care are given the right advice and guidance, work which we also carry out in our communities.
Do not open your door if you are unsure who the caller is.
Always make sure you know who visitors are by asking to see their identification.
Never let people into your property if you don't know them
Always keep the key chain on the door whilst talking to callers and always check their ID before letting them into your home.
Genuine callers won't mind you doing this. If callers haven't got valid identification, don't let them in
Bogus callers often pretend to be someone official, for example, from a utility company or the water board. They will also try to distract people by asking for a drink of water or if they can use the toilet. Remember "if in doubt, keep them out"
Remember to close and lock the back door before you answer the front door.
It's a good idea to have a viewer or spy hole and a stout chain fitted to all the external doors to the property
Don't keep large quantities of cash at home. It's better in the bank where it's safe
If someone asks for your help (for example, if they want to make a telephone call or claim to have lost a ball in your garden) always ask a friend or neighbour, or someone else you trust, for help