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Drug addict raped and murdered woman, 80, before pawning her wedding ring

Charles Stapleton was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 31 years.

A drug addict burglar raped and murdered an 80-year-old devout churchgoer before he pawned her jewellery, including her wedding ring, for £110.

Charles Stapleton, 52, targeted his neighbour, widow Teresa Wishart, who he befriended months earlier and did paid odd jobs for in her home in Kirkby, Merseyside.

The grandmother-of-11 was bludgeoned to death with one or more heavy objects before Stapleton raped her – when she was probably unconscious – and pulled free the wedding ring that she had worn for 60 years.

Sentencing him to life with a minimum term of 31 years, the Honorary Recorder of Liverpool, Judge Clement Goldstone QC, told Stapleton that he and his victim came from”opposite ends of the spectrum of character, responsibility and behaviour in every-day life”.

On Tuesday, Liverpool Crown Court heard Stapleton was a habitual user of cocaine, heroin, crack cocaine, cannabis and Spice, who had 108 previous convictions including numerous burglaries, dishonesty offences and drug possession.

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Charles Stapleton has been sentenced to life with a minimum term of 31 years (Merseyside Police/PA)

Mrs Wishart had lived at her home in Changford Road since 1967 and was a popular member of the community who was described by one neighbour as  “very lovely, like the mother of the street”.

The mother-of-four, whose husband Christopher died in 1996, regularly attended St Mary’s RC Church in Northwood where she also spent time as a volunteer cleaner.

Nigel Power QC, prosecuting, said a neighbour saw the defendant stumbling about in his garden between 10.30pm and 11pm on October 18 last year.

He said: “She saw the figure in the garden pull himself up on to the fence and put his legs over and drop into Mrs Wishart’s garden.

“She thought that it was just the defendant acting strangely and didn’t really see it as suspicious.”

Later the neighbour spotted lights going on and off in Mrs Wishart’s house and a silhouette of a person moving from room to room.

Mrs Wishart’s body was found on her living room floor by her youngest daughter the following morning when she dropped by to take her shopping.

On the same morning, Stapleton visited a pawnbrokers in Kirkby town centre and sold Mrs Wishart’s wedding ring, a second ring, a watch and a pair of earrings for £110.

Following house-to-house inquiries the defendant, of Watts Close, was arrested on suspicion of burglary and later for murder and rape.

When cautioned he replied: “Murder and rape, that’s not what I’m about, check my record.”

But in January he pleaded guilty to murder and burglary and on Tuesday he admitted rape on the first day of his scheduled trial.

In a victim personal statement, Mrs Wishart’s youngest daughter, Julie, said that her mother was “so proud” of her home where she felt “safe and content”.

She said: “Her ultimate goal was to leave her home to her children as her legacy on how to keep a home.”

One of her wishes was to be cremated and sent off from her own home, the court was told.

Her eldest daughter, Lesley, said a “monster” had denied her mother a dignified death, the funeral arrangements she had made and the chance for her family to kiss her goodbye.

Simon Christie, defending, said his client could not recall what made him burgle the home and commit “these dreadful acts which appals and disgusts him” but he had  taken a “potentially toxic” combination of drugs.

During the investigation it emerged that in the early hours of October 18 – before the killing – Stapleton posted on his Facebook status “I could quite easily kill again and do another 30yrs”.

Judge Goldstone rejected any assertion that Stapleton’s “drug-crazed state” had blocked out any memory of the “sheer wickedness and inhumanity” of his actions.

He went on: “Her (Mrs Wishart) character was as immaculate as her appearance.

“She was as generous in spirit as she was materially.

“I am quite satisfied in the months preceding her death you realised she was an easy target and no doubt believed she had property that was well worth stealing.”

He added that as well as violently attacking her, it was “beyond belief of any right-thinking human being” that he went on to rape her.

In a statement, Mrs Wishart’s family said: “Our family will never forgive Stapleton for his brutal and despicable acts last October, a day in which he destroyed a life, broke a family and continues to affect a whole community.

“For our mum to be attacked in what should be the safe haven of her home is something that we still struggle to comprehend, nearly six months later.

“For someone to prey on an innocent, vulnerable woman in this way is beyond belief and has stunned everyone who knew and loved her.

“Mum was an innocent pensioner who was living out the latter years of her life in the peace and comfort of her home, which she worked so hard on and was so proud of.

“Our mum had a heart of gold and had given that man odd jobs to do days before he chose to enter our mum’s home and savagely attack her, then ransack her beautiful home. “

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