Man jailed for pensioner burglary
A burglar whose terrified 86-year-old victim suffered a suspected heart attack has been jailed for 16 months.
Barbara Haynes, from Lancaster, died eight weeks after William Hartley climbed through a window of her home and prompted her to rush into her bathroom in horror and lock the door.
She alerted police by pulling an emergency cord and Hartley fled empty-handed, but the pensioner later felt unwell and had to be taken to hospital.
The widow was eventually fit enough to return home but her daughter told Preston Crown Court she was "never the same" after the break-in in the early hours of February 15 and was noticeably more frail.
Fingerprints on the window of the address in Wheatfield Court were traced to the defendant, who was arrested and told officers he had been out drinking and had taken valium.
He could not accept - and still does not believe - he was capable of such an offence as he changed his plea to guilty on the day of the scheduled trial.
Hartley, of Sun Street, Lancaster, then committed a public order offence while on bail and beat up his girlfriend a day after pleading guilty to the burglary.
His counsel, Chris Hudson, explained Hartley had alcohol and drug problems which all stemmed from the break-up of his parents' marriage.
In a family statement, Marjorie Haynes said: "Mum was a very gentle, caring person but at the same time she had a strong independent spirit and was determined to remain in her own home despite increasingly poor health. Mum was at the very centre of our family; we all miss her very much and are sad that the break-in caused her so much fear and anxiety.
"We hope that the court case will highlight the need to protect and cherish elderly and vulnerable members of our society."