'Tough old bird', 77, fought off street robber in Bentilee
HEROIN addict Alan Saunders got more than her bargained for when he targeted a 77-year-old woman and tried to steal her handbag.
Saunders, aged 32, was wearing a hooded top with a scarf covering the lower part of his face when he approached Pauline Mountford as she walked with her husband in Dividy Road, Bentilee.
But the plucky pensioner put up a struggle and Saunders was forced to flee empty-handed after two passers-by came to her aid, Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court heard yesterday.
Prosecutor Neil Ahuja said 77-year-old Mrs Mountford was on her way to a health centre and was carrying a shoulder bag over her right shoulder.
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"She was holding the lower part of the strap with her hand," said Mr Ahuja.
"She saw a man walking in the opposite direction with a hooded top and a scarf on the lower part of his face.
"As he walked past, the man grabbed the strap of the bag.
"Mrs Mountford still had hold. He continued to pull as she resisted. But he pulled with sufficient force to pull her over."
The court heard several members of the public saw the attack and ran to the pensioner's aid.
Mr Ahuja said: "The defendant ran off, chased by others. He stopped when he reached a brook and said he had done nothing wrong.
"He said he was running when he tripped and fell. He said he ran off because he got scared."
Mrs Mountford was left with a grazed right knee following the incident at 12.50pm on January 10.
But the court heard the pensioner described herself as a 'tough old bird' and said the incident would not stop her going out.
But, she added, she will now be more apprehensive of people around her.
Saunders, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to attempted robbery.
The court heard at the time of the offence he was subject to a community order.
Kevin Mortlock, mitigating, said Saunders acted impulsively and added the defendant was grateful Mrs Mountford was not more seriously injured.
Mr Mortlock said: "Immediately after he attempted to take the bag, he did panic, he ran and he was detained. He did not struggle. He went back to the scene and was arrested."
Mr Mortlock said Saunders would write to his victim to apologise if he could find the right words.
He has already written to his parents from custody as he feels he has let them down.
The court heard Saunders has an entrenched addiction to heroin.
"It has dominated his life recently and led to him to try to commit this offence," said Mr Mortlock.
"He wants to rid himself of drugs."
Judge Granville Styler sentenced Saunders to 32 months in prison.
He told the defendant: "Heroin is your downfall in life.
"This is a serious offence. You targeted a vulnerable woman.
"You used considerable force, knocking her to the floor, causing her a grazed knee.
"At the time you were in breach of a community order."
The judge commended Raymond Hughes and Michael Walker for their public-spirited actions in going to Mrs Mountford's aid.
He rewarded both with £250 from the High Sheriff of Staffordshire's fund.
Judge Styler added: "Had Mrs Mountford not shown great fortitude you would have got away with the bag and the offence.
"Mercifully people gave chase and apprehended you."