Female thief stole 80-year-old woman's handbag from mobility walker near Hartlepool town centre
A thief stole an elderly woman’s handbag from her walking frame after refusing to give her money.
Chantelle Atkinson, 39, grabbed the bag containing around £200 and other valuables belonging to the 80-year-old victim before running off, Teesside Crown Court heard.
Prosecutors said she deliberately targeted the woman, who uses a mobility walker, because of her vulnerability.
Atkinson pleaded guilty to theft but was spared immediate prison after the judge said he would give her the chance to stay out of trouble.
Chris Baker, prosecuting, said the victim encountered Atkinson who was crying outside the library in Hartlepool town centre on March 20 and asked if she was alright.
Atkinson asked to borrow money to visit her daughter in hospital but the victim said she had spent it all on shopping.
Mr Baker said alarm bells started ringing for the victim as Atkinson walked next to her in Park Road before she doubled back and followed the woman down a walkway.
She became intimidating when the victim told her: “There’s no point following me home.”
Mr Baker said: “She reached over and grabbed the handbag and ran off.
"[The victim] tried to run after her but was unable to do so because of her bad back.
"She asked a passing member of the public to call the police.”
Atkinson was arrested nearby. The woman’s bag, including her bank cards, cash and purse was recovered, but some family photos and an address book was not found.
Describing the effect on her the victim said in a statement: “Even during Covid I have maintained my independence in going out regularly to get out and live my normal life but I’m concerned now that this incident will affect my confidence negatively.”
Kelleigh Lodge, defending, said in mitigation that Atkinson, of Sheriff Street, Hartlepool, is getting help for mental health issues and was fearful of prison.
She added Atkinson has distanced herself from bad company adding: “She’s genuinely sorry.”
Recorder Andrew Sutcliffe told her: “You have heard in court today the distress and appalling effect that your conduct has had on this vulnerable lady and her life will never be the same again.”
Atkinson received a 12-month prison term, which was suspended for two years, together with probation, a six-month home curfew and 100 hours of unpaid work.