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Woman pretended to help disabled man while secretly emptying his pockets

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A woman who pretended to help a disabled man while secretly emptying his pockets has been jailed.

Tammy Wilmot targeted the elderly victim after he withdrew money from a cash machine at Yorkshire Bank in Hartlepool, County Durham.

Teesside Crown Court heard how the 31-year-old approached the man, who was using two walking sticks, and asked him if he needed any help.

She then put her hand in his pocket and stole some of his cash, Teesside Live reports.

Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, said: "The prosecution say this was a mean, targeted offence with a clearly vulnerable man as its aim."

He told the court how the victim had suffered a broken back from a work accident and had arthritis in his legs, spine and fingers.

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Mr Newcombe said that the man took £70 out of the cash machine and began to walk up the street prior to the incident on August 23 this year.

CCTV, which was played to the court, showed Wilmot standing with a group of men near the cash machine on York Road.

She is seen to run up behind the victim and approach him while he was walking with two sticks.

Mr Newcombe told the court how the man said she asked if he needed any help and if he could manage.

He said the victim then felt her go into his pocket and tried to stop her but was worried that he was going to lose his balance.

Mr Newcombe said: "He felt the defendant pushing and pulling at him."

The court in Middlesbrough heard how a Good Samaritan, who saw the incident, approached the defendant and the group and demanded that they returned the money.

Mr Newcombe said: "It was clear that the defendant was leading the group.

"The police got involved and the defendant was found to be in possession of £70 of the money."

After she was arrested, Wilmot denied the robbery and gave an explanation as to why she had £70. She refused to watch the CCTV footage or answer further questions.

In a victim impact statement, read to the court by Mr Newcombe, the man said: "I believe she seen me and picked on me as an easy target because anyone can see I can't chase anyone away.

"It's absolutely disgusting on a Sunday morning that I'm not safe taking money out in my hometown."

Wilmot, of York Road, Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to robbery.

The court heard how Wilmot, who appeared at her sentencing hearing via video link to Low Newton prison in County Durham, has over 100 offences, mostly for theft.

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Martin Scarborough, defending, said: "She was with other males, there was clearly some brief discussion between them. Whether she would have committed this offence if she had been on her own – I know she would say she wouldn't have done.

"Some of the money was recovered from her, some recovered from others who, it's not right to say put her up to it, but encouraged it. Hopefully [the victim] will not be out of pocket as a result of this offence."

Mr Scarborough said that Wilmot had a difficult upbringing and developed a drug addiction.

Judge Deborah Sherwin told Wilmot that she has a "very, very long list" of previous convictions which are mostly for shoplifting.

She said: "For many years you have struggled with an addiction to heroin which you haven't been able to rid yourself for any substantial period of time."

The judge told Wilmot that it was clear that the victim was vulnerable.

She said: "I'm quite satisfied your motivation wasn't to offer him help but to gain his trust in some way.

"There was some pushing and pulling between the two of you before you escaped with the money."

Judge Sherwin sentenced Wilmot to 15 months behind bars.

After receiving her sentence, Wilmot said: "I just want to say sorry to the victim."

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