A judge in Belfast yesterday praised the "very swift and commendable actions" of an 85-year-old pensioner's neighbour, whose call to police after hearing a burglar led to the young thief's swift arrest.
Judge Stephen Fowler QC was speaking as he ordered the detention of the 20-year-old burglar, who had shown a lack of empathy towards his elderly victim.
Mr Fowler told Michael Marley, of no fixed abode, that he would have sentenced him to a total of three years of detention, but given his pleas of guilt and cooperation with police he would reduce this to 22 months, half of which will be served on licence.
The Belfast Crown Court judge's praise for the elderly woman's neighbour came as he revealed it was her call to police that led to Marley's arrest within 20 minutes of the break-in in the early hours of May 27 last year.
She too had heard Marley forcing his way into the pensioner's north Belfast home and rang to check on her.
The pensioner had been on her way down the stairs when confronted by Marley coming towards her carrying her ringing mobile phone, which he gave to her, before pushing past her and going into her bedroom and then making off.
On answering her own mobile she told her concerned neighbour about the confrontation with the "strange man" coming up her stairs.
The reaction of the friend, said Mr Fowler, "just goes to show the importance of good neighbours". He said she was to be commended for being so concerned that she checked on her elderly neighbour in the middle of the night.
In addition, Mr Fowler said it must have been a very "traumatic event for this elderly lady... a chilling experience", who must have been already frightened by the noises which had disturbed her, and being confronted by Marley coming towards her.
The judge said he was giving Marley credit for his remorse, apology to his victim and guilty pleas.
However, he said he had not shown her much empathy at the time when he confronted her in her own home in the early hours and when he must have realised she was a vulnerable and elderly person.