Belfast Telegraph

Belfast man (71) jailed for robbing money from elderly women

By Ashleigh McDonald

A 71-year-old Belfast man who preyed on and robbed elderly women for money which he then sent to an online female friend from Columbia was handed a seven-year sentence on Friday.

Belfast Crown Court heard that the eldest victim in Robert Archer's crime spree was 92, and that some of those he robbed sustained injuries either by being pushed by him, putting up a fight or trying to chase after him.

The court also heard the father of seven - who has a previous conviction for brothel-keeping back in the 1991 - began offending to raise money after embarking on the romantic online relationship.

Robert Rodney Stanely Archer, from Upper Newtownards Road in Dundonald, admitted robbing six women, trying to rob a seventh, and stealing money from a further three pensioners.

Sentencing Archer, Judge Patrica Smyth told him: "I cannot find the words to describe your criminality.

"All of the victims were very elderly ladies, targeted specifically because of their vulnerability. You preyed on them. You watched them as they collected their pension, or withdrew money from a cash machine, or simply walked along the street."

Archer's offending began in April last year and came to an end following a botched robbery at a bus stop in east Belfast in February.

A prosecutor said that on April 15, 2016, a 73-year-old had just collected her pension from the Post Office and was walking on the Comber Greenway with the aid of a zimmer-frame when she was targeted by Archer. She was pushed to the ground, and had her handbag taken, which contained £120.

Ten days later, a 91-year-old was robbed on her doorstep following a trip to the Post Office. As she put her key in the front door, she heard someone say 'give me your bag.' A struggle ensued, Archer used force and the pensioner sustained a head wound after being brought to the ground, while he made off with £500.

On August 23 last year, a 76-year-old was walking towards Dundela Flats when she was robbed by Archer, who stole her handbag containing £70. The prosecutor said the victim was left "crying, frightened and very afraid".

Archer struck again four days later, when he snatched a handbag from an 80-year-old at a bus stop on the Sandown Road. A passing postman gave chase and managed to retrieve the bag and cash.

Archer's next victim was robbed on November 2 last year, as she was walking on the Green Road. The 86-year-old - who uses a walking aid - felt an arm come across her right shoulder and grab hold of the strap of her handbag, containing £60.

On November 28, an 84-year-old was walking on the Sandown Road when she was pushed from behind into railings. Archer stole a Sainsbury's bag from her, and "made off laughing". The woman followed Archer and was able to recover the bag, minus the cash. She sustained injuries to her right shoulder and eye.

An 84-year-old was Archer's next victim and she had her handbag taken as she walked along Sydenham Avenue on December 7. After feeling someone tugging at her bag, she tried to resist but the bag which contained £300 she had just withdrawn from the Post Office was stolen.

Two days later, a 92-year-old was approached from behind in the Dundela Flats area and her handbag was taken by force. A total of £30 was taken, and the elderly woman sustained a fractured arm and bruising to her fingers after she fell giving chase to Archer.

On December 23, Archer targeted an 85-year-old who had just been to the Post Office on the Belmont Road. As she waiting for a lift, Archer snatched her bag and made off with £700.

The final incident occurred this February, when Archer tried but failed to steal an 81-year old woman's bag. He approached her at a bus stop on the Belmont Road, where he tried to grab her bag. She shouted 'no way' and struck him with her walking stick.

The prosecutor said Archer was arrested on February 2 on the Belmont Road, as police had been aware of the spate of robberies and Archer was pointed out.

When he was interviewed, Archer initially denied the offences, but later admitted to all ten charges. He told police had had formed a relationship with a woman in Columbia and that he had transferred large sums of money to her.

Defence barrister Ian Turkington said his elderly client had accepted responsibility, adding the offences were "unsavoury to say the least."

The barrister also acknowledged it would have been a "frightening experience" for the victims, especially those who were injured.

Mr Turkington said that despite having seven children, Archer spent every day on his own, and it was against this backdrop that he became involving online with the Columbian woman. This in turn let to "desperate attempts to get money", and Archer "clearly was deliberately targeting these ladies because they were easy prey ... for money."

Archer's barrister told the court the pensioner was "someone who is vulnerable himself" as he "fell victim to a scam" which led to this "totally irrational behaviour."

Passing sentence, Judge Smyth said she had taken into consideration Archer's age and his guilty plea, which spared the elderly victims the stress of coming to court.

Telling Archer "you committed these offences because it was an easy way to make money", the Judge spoke of the impact his behaviour has had on the those he targeted.

The pensioner - who has asthma and diabetes - will spend half his sentence in prison, with the remainder spend on licence when he is released.

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