Businessman 'under influence of alcohol and drugs' stole purse from elderly leukaemia patient

Richard Spencer stole a purse from a 90-year-old woman -Credit:Hull Live
Richard Spencer stole a purse from a 90-year-old woman -Credit:Hull Live

A heavy-drinking businessman who became addicted to Class A drugs callously "targeted" a 90-year-old woman for a cruel street robbery – and stole her purse from her trolley just minutes after she had finished shopping.

Richard Spencer hastily ran off after the nasty confrontation but the incident was later reported to the police by his girlfriend, who told them that he "boasted" to her about stealing the purse and asked her if he had been a "bad boy". The brazen robbery, including taking the purse, containing £70 cash, left the elderly victim feeling shocked and uneasy and it had knocked her confidence, Hull Crown Court heard.

Spencer, 45, of St Augustine's Mews, Hedon, admitted robbery of the woman on October 7. Holly Thompson, prosecuting, said that the 90-year-old woman suffered from chronic leukaemia. She left her home at about 1pm and eventually went to the Cooperative store in Hessle Square, where she did her food shopping.


She walked towards Swinegate through a small alleyway leading away from the store and she had a collapsible fabric trolley with her. At about 2.15pm, she was approached by a man whom she did not recognise and he asked her: "Can you tell me where The Weir is?" She gave him directions.

"As she did so, the male grabbed the handle of her trolley and swung it so the back pocket was facing him," said Miss Thompson. "He put his hand in the pocket of the bag and took out her purse.

"She shouted for someone to help but there was nobody nearby. She attempted to regain her purse but the male then ran away through the alleyway before jumping over a fence, leading to a local car wash."

There was £70 cash as well as various cards inside the purse. On October 8, Spencer's then girlfriend reported a domestic incident involving him to the police. During the telephone call, she told police that Spencer was responsible for the robbery of an elderly woman the previous day in the Hessle area.

The girlfriend said that she saw Spencer wrap something in a black bin bag and take it outside. The outline was that of a purse.

"She confirmed that the defendant had told her that he had robbed an old woman within the Hessle area the previous day and asked her if she thought he was a 'bad boy' for doing so," said Miss Thompson.

"He also informed her that the purse was in the house. He had previously passed her a bank card from the purse."

Police went to the woman's house on October 8 but nobody answered the door. They got inside through an open bedroom window. A man in the property at the time ran away. He was described as being under the influence of something.

The woman later told them that the stolen purse and bank card were outside her home in a black bin bag hidden behind a summer house. Spencer had been "boasting" about it. He was later arrested at about 8.18am.

The purse and some of its contents were found in the loft of the garage. A bank card and other items belonging to the pensioner were found.

CCTV from the scene of the robbery was obtained and it showed Spencer walking away from Hessle Square. The clothes that he had worn that day, shown on CCTV, were found at the house.

The elderly woman was targeted because of her vulnerability due to her age, said Miss Thompson. During police interview, Spencer claimed that he did not know anything about the robbery and that the elderly woman's statement was "baloney".

He denied knowledge of the incident and claimed that he did not put the items in the garage and that his friends had access to it. He had convictions for five previous offences, including drink-driving, between April 1998 and October last year.

The elderly woman later said: "This incident has left me feeling unsettled and uneasy. This incident has knocked my confidence. I will be inclined in future to ask a friend to come out with me."

Oliver Shipley, mitigating, said that there was no physical harm caused to the pensioner and Spencer had spun the trolley around. "This offence involved minimal force and, thankfully, no further harm was caused to this complainant," said Mr Shipley.

"He had retracted his hand, taking the purse with him. The complainant was not subjected to being pushed to the floor or pushed off her feet."

Spencer had graduated from the University of Nottingham, he had worked in London for six years, had started a business in quality management, worked in signage and set up the digital print side of a family business.

He earned a good salary and he was married for 12 years but the relationship ended shortly before the robbery offence. "There has been a spiral effect in this defendant's life that has seen him, on this day in question, hit rock bottom," said Mr Shipley.

"He spiralled out of control. To deal with the issues that he had in his life, he turned to Class A drugs and medication, a cocktail of what could have been a lethal cocktail of drugs.

"He was drinking at least three bottles of wine a day at some points. It was a significant amount of alcohol and a problem that developed itself and he quickly began using non-prescription medications.

"He lost, sometimes, days by sometimes waking up 48 hours after he had taken drugs. He was having sleeping problems due to the breakdown of the marriage.

"Clearly, on the day in question, he was under the influence of alcohol and drugs. He was, essentially, addicted. He had a serious alcohol issue and he had a serious drug issue. This is behaviour completely out of character for this defendant."

Recorder David Kelly said: "He has a propensity for drink-driving. He has a propensity to get into a car while under the influence of alcohol. That's his character. If he had been pulled up for drink-driving, it would hardly have come as a surprise."

Recorder Kelly said of the robbery: "It's out of character. That's why it's a mystery. It's just inexplicable. There doesn't seem to have been a financial motive."

Spencer was a businessman and he had received £200,000 from the sale of a house. "Robbing a 90-year-old woman in the street doesn't explain it at all," said Recorder Kelly.

Spencer was given a 19-month suspended prison sentence, 150 hours' unpaid work and six months' alcohol treatment. He was ordered to pay £2,000 compensation to the pensioner at the rate of £200 a month and he was given a five-year restraining order.