27th Jul, 2017

Robber jailed after snatching 87 year-old pensioner's purse

A HOUSING association lift engineer has been commended by a judge for bravely chasing and tackling to the ground a dangerous robber who had snatched a vulnerable pensioner’s purse.

The judge at Warwick Crown Court praised Whitefriars Housing Association worker David O’Sullivan after jailing robber Wayne Clark in his absence after he refused to leave his cell.

Clark, of Miller Dale Close, Rugby, who had pleaded guilty to robbing his 87-year-old victim, was given an extended prison sentence after the court heard he had a string of similar convictions.

The 42 year-old was jailed for four years and eight months, of which he will have to serve at least two-thirds, and will then only be freed before serving the whole sentence if the Parole Board considers it safe to do so.

Judge Andrew Lockhart QC ordered Clark, who had also admitted obstructing a police officer and failing to provide a test for analysis, should then remain on licence for the rest of the term and for an additional five years.

Clark had twice previously refused to attend court via a video link, once because he was playing football at the time, and had also refused to leave prison to be taken to the court.

So when the judge heard he was in the court cells, where he said he wanted to retract his plea, but was refusing to come into court, he ruled that he should be sentenced in his absence.

Prosecutor Stefan Kolodynski said in December the 87-year-old pensioner was returning to her home of ten years in a Whitefriars Housing Association flat in Spon Street, Coventry.

She was outside the main door of the flats when Clark cycled up behind her and grabbed hold of her shopping bag.

The plucky pensioner was pulled to the ground as she tried to cling on to the bag, in which she had her purse, and her scream for help was heard by lift engineer Mr O’Sullivan who was working in the vestibule.

“He ran to the front door and saw her on the floor struggling with 41-year-old Mr Clark.

“He had to press a security button to get out, and by the time the door had released it was clear to Clark that his robbery was being thwarted, and he got to his feet with her purse and rode off on his cycle.

But Mr O’Sullivan ran after him and pushed him hard, knocking him off his bike to the ground.

“There was a tussle between them, and Mr O’Sullivan feared he may have a knife, although I make it clear that in fact he didn’t,” said Mr Kolodynski.

Clark dropped the purse and got to his feet, but Mr O’Sullivan was determined not to let him get away, and grabbed his legs before pulling him back to the ground and holding on to him.

When the public-spirited lift engineer looked over to the pensioner, who was still on the ground, and asked if her purse had been stolen she responded simply by clenching her fist and shaking it towards Clark.

When the police arrived and arrested Clark, he gave his name as Dwayne Clark and gave a false address which he could not pronounce correctly and could not spell, and he refused to take a test for drug analysis.

Mr Kolodynski said as a result of her ordeal, the pensioner says she is constantly worried about being targeted again, and has had to leave her home of ten years and move into sheltered accommodation.

He added Clark had five previous convictions for robberies, including at least two when he had pulled elderly women to the ground before making off on his bike with their bags, and he was on licence from a previous six-year sentence at the time.

Sentencing Clark, who was unrepresented, Judge Lockhart said: “He pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, and should receive full credit for that.

“But this was a robbery by a 41-year-old, who I will sentence in his absence.  He is a man with a significant criminal history, with numerous offences of violence and numerous offences similar to that we have to deal with.

“A lady of 87 years of age was walking towards the entrance of the flats where she was living and was approached by this defendant with a bike which smashed her to the ground.

“It is merciful a person of her age did not suffer a fractured bone as a result.

“Mr O’Sullivan, seeing the struggle, sprinted after him and took him to the ground.  He should be commended for his bravery.

“I am absolutely sure this man poses a real and present danger of causing really serious psychological or physical harm, and I find he is a dangerous offender.  I am driven to conclude an extended sentence is necessary to protect the public.”