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Friday, 19 December 2014

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Carlisle serial thief preyed on vulnerable women

A callous thief who targeted vulnerable women left one so distressed that she lost her faith in humanity.

Bernadette Gilheaney’s victims – whose ages ranged from 59 to 75 – included a woman in a wheelchair and another who walked with a stick.

The 48-year-old serial thief, of Briar Bank, Belah, Carlisle, was today starting a jail sentence after she admitted three counts of theft.

Beccy McGregor, prosecuting at the city’s Crown Court, described how the defendant had singled out the woman who was in a wheelchair, snatching her bag.

The victim who walked with the aid of a stick believed she had been targeted because Gilheaney saw her using a disabled parking space.

The court heard that in October and November last year Gilheaney stole hundreds of pounds and items with sentimental value from people in supermarkets.

CCTV footage was played in court showing the defendant as she struck in Aldi on Petteril Bank Road, Harraby, Carlisle, on October 30.

The video showed Gilheaney waiting until a woman left her trolley unattended before stealing her bag and making off.

The bag contained a mobile phone and photographs of her late husband.

Miss McGregor outlined the devastating effect on the victim, saying: “The day after the incident at 2.30am she [the victim] sat and cried, and she has struggled to cope since.

“She has had problems sleeping as a result of worry about someone coming in. Her health has been affected through stress and she is lucky that she has a family supporting her.

“She’s concerned that she was targeted due to parking in a disabled bay and walking with a walking stick.”

On November 6 in B&M Bargains on London Road, Carlisle, Gilheaney stole a bag from another woman.

In the bag were pictures of her dead daughter and cash. Of this victim, Miss McGregor said: “She’s lost her faith in humanity.”

And a week later in a shop in Kingstown, Carlisle, Gilheaney took a bag from the back of a woman’s wheelchair which had £400 in cash and credit and debit cards inside.

Defence barrister Elizabeth Muir said Gilheaney had a difficult and unusual upbringing, and felt genuine remorse for what she had done.

Miss Muir said: “She’s thoroughly ashamed of herself and has been seeing a psychiatrist in order to come to terms with her past. She’s a lady who would not cope well in custody and given the extraordinary circumstances of her life I would ask your honour to punish her in the community.”

Recorder Michael Hayton told Gilheaney: “I accept you have personal mitigation but I have to balance that against a lifetime of petty crime and there has been a significant effect on each and every victim.”

Gilheaney also pleaded guilty to a charge of possession of cannabis. Recorder Hayton jailed her for eight months and ordered her to pay a £100 victim surcharge.

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