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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Carlisle pensioner's heartache after thief steals sentimental photos

A pensioner has told how a callous thief who snatched her bag in a busy city supermarket never returned cherished photos of her beloved late husband.

Marjorie Hirst photo
Marjorie Hirst

The snaps, along with personal papers, had been tucked away in a purse which was kept inside the bag stolen by serial thief Bernadette Gilheaney.

At Carlisle Crown Court, Gilheaney, 48, admitted a series of thefts, in which she callously targeted lone and vulnerable women.

For the first time, one of her victims, disabled widow Marjorie Hirst, 76, has spoken publicly of the heartache caused by Gilheaney’s crimes.

Mrs Hirst, a great grandmother from the London Road area of the city, who suffers arthritis and walks with a stick, recalled how she had been about to approach the tills at Aldi with her goods in a shopping trolley when she realised her bag was gone.

After seeing her leave her car in a disabled parking bay, Gilheaney had followed her into the shop and, while the pensioner was distracted, snatched her bag.

“I remember turning round and just saying: ‘My bag’s gone. My bag’s gone.

“It was such a shock,” said Marjorie.

“Everybody there was very good to me. Two little boys even ran out of the shop to see if they could see who had ran off with my bag.

“There was £90 in my purse but what really upset me was what was in my purse. I had photos – holiday snaps – of my late husband Ronnie in it, as well as a ‘Thanks for the sympathy’ newspaper cutting from when he died.

“They were always in my purse so that he was always with me. This was his closeness to me. They’d been there since his funeral.

“It was awful losing them. I never got them back.”

Marjorie nursed her 78-year-old husband through eight weeks of terminal bone and prostate cancer in 2012.

Staff at the News & Star were able to recreate his stolen death notice for Marjorie but the pictures from the purse remain missing.

The pensioner said: “The police searched her house but all they found was cannabis. They never found the bags she stole from people.

“I’ve been devastated by what she did to me. The money didn’t matter. I’ve always been very community minded, and very confident.

“But this has knocked all of the confidence out of me.

“I’ve got a picture on the wall of Ronnie in bedroom. Sometimes, if something bothers me, I look at it and talk to him because that’s the only thing that gives me any help now. I went to court to see her dealt with and they said she had considerable personal difficulties, but don’t we all?”

Commenting on the eight-month jail term handed down to Gilheaney, of Briar Bank, Belah, Mrs Hirst added: “She got what she deserved.”

During the court hearing, the judge was told that Gilheaney’s three victims also included a woman in a wheelchair. One of three women targeted was so upset she lost her faith in humanity, the court was told. The defendant’s barrister said that she felt thoroughly ashamed.

Mrs Hirst praised the police and prosecution officials for their handling of the case.

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