Ex-Hartlepool shop manager burgled home of 91-year-old man after drugs gang threatened her baby and tried to force her into prostitution

A new mum who fell into debt to a drugs gang who threatened her baby and tried to force her into prostitution has been jailed after she twice burgled a 91-year-old man to pay them off.

Wednesday, 30th October 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 31st October 2019, 12:06 pm

Carla Rooney, 37, a former manager at a Tesco store in Hartlepool, became addicted to painkillers after her GP prescribed them for a back injury. When he stopped her prescription for hydrocodeine, a neighbour gave her heroin, and soon she owed £400 to dealers.

She was evicted from her home with her baby and 10-year-old daughter and she moved in with her mother in Billingham.

The gang turned up at the house at all hours of the day and night threatening her and her family, and later lured her to a flat where she was kept prisoner for three hours as they hurled bottles at her and made terrifying threats, Teesside Crown Court was told.

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The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.
The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.

A liaison probation officer told the judge in a verbal pre-sentence report: “They asked her to perform sexual favours for them and others to pay off the debt but she refused.

”She would never get into prostitution, she would never allow herself to go any further.”

Prosecutor Rachel Masters said that Rooney knew the 91-year-old man from when she worked at a store in Billingham, and in June she turned up at his home asking to use the lavatory.

Later she burgled his house twice in the early hours through an open window three times stealing £20 from a jar and his wallet in his trousers and a bank card which she used twice to buy cigarettes to sell for the cash.

The man’s daughter reported his suspicions to the police after her first visit and she was given a caution – but the next day she burgled him again.

Kelleigh Lodge, defending, said: “I can’t stress enough how genuine she is is her sorrow for this offending.”

Rooney is still paying £40 a week to the drug dealer, said the probation officer.

Judge Peter Armstrong told Rooney: “I have come to the conclusion that the appropriate punishment can only be met by immediate custody.

“As to how you got into debt, while that is a familiar story, sadly, from your addiction to prescription drugs and then illegal drugs and debt.

“I am sure you never intended to end up where you are when you started out on that journey. You have young children and your remorse is genuine.”Rooney, of Sidlaw Road, Billingham, was jailed for 20 months with a deduction of 45 days for time spent on an electronically-tagged curfew after she pleaded guilty to two charges of burglary and two of fraud in June and early July.