Northern Ireland news

Fermanagh man (22) told to `expect significant custodial sentence' after pleading guilty to robbing 96-year-old woman

Detectives said efforts to arrest Nathan Phair proved difficult and he was described as actively evading police

A 22-YEAR-old man has been warned to "expect a significant custodial sentence" after pleading guilty to the burglary of a 96-year-old woman.

Dungannon Crown Court heard it was the second time Nathan Phair (22) of Castlebalfour Park in Lisnaskea, Co Fermanagh targeted an elderly person was targeted in their own home.

The court was told the victim in the latest case was particularly vulnerable as she is blind and hearing impaired.

Phair, who has been remanded in custody since his arrest, admitted entering the woman's home as a trespasser on August 27 2017 and stealing £200.

The court previously heard that the pensioner was in bed when she vaguely heard a disturbance in her home what she initially thought was the pipes settling down.

However the noise went on for around 90 minutes and she decided to investigate.

On opening her bedroom door, she saw a man coming down a flight of stairs from the attic.

He fled the scene and police were called.

Entry had been gained by smashing a downstairs window and the house was completely ransacked.

The victim discovered £200 was missing and officers recovered a glove and a footprint, both of which were sent for analysis.

The court was told DNA matching Phair's was found on the glove, while the footprint was linked to a previous incident.

However, detectives said efforts to arrest him proved difficult and he was described as actively evading police.

The court was told his previous conviction for targeting an elderly man in his own home involved an assault and a fire deliberately started and causing damage.

Bail was refused at an earlier hearng, with the judge on that occasion stating: "One has a deep concern, particularly after the unhappy news of elderly persons being targeted in their own homes.

"Such offences are cruel, heartless attacks of elderly, vulnerable people, particularly in rural areas.

"Elderly, vulnerable people are being targeted on the expectation they will be unable to give evidence. They must be protected. There is also a danger of others being made victims."

Today Judge Neil Rafferty suggested an impacted statement is obtained, stating, "victims are at the heart of the process".

He told Phair: "Given the aggravating circumstances of this case you can expect a significant custodial sentence."

The case has been adjourned until next month for the preparation of pre-sentence reports.

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