Bonnie and Clyde couple who gagged 92-year-old grandmother with her own tights and tied her to chair during string of raids are jailed for total of more than 20 years
- The couple were jailed for burglary, attempted burglary and fraud
A Bonnie and Clyde couple who gagged a 92-year-old grandmother with her own tights and tied her to a chair during a string of raids have been jailed for a total of more than 20 years.
Jean Harding was left fearing for her life when Edward Connors, 30, and his fiancee Leanna Hughes burst into her Manchester home late at night last June while in search of valuables.
Connors, a convicted rapist, bound Mrs Harding up with a cable tie, dragged her downstairs and threatened to kill her if she refused to comply.
Hughes, 29, then stripped the grandmother of all her jewellery, including priceless family heirlooms, and tied her up with a vacuum cleaner cable.
The couple were sentenced to a total of more than 20 years in jail after being convicted of burglary, attempted burglary and fraud at Manchester Crown Court.
Edward Connors and Leanna Hughes gagged a 92-year-old grandmother with her own tights and tied her to a chair during a string of raids
Connors and Hughes were sentenced to a total of over 20 years in jail after being convicted of burglary, attempted burglary and fraud at Manchester Crown Court
The newly engaged couple targeted Mrs Harding’s property in Burnage, Manchester, during a crime spree after arriving from Dublin, Ireland.
Connors used a ladder to enter Mrs Harding’s second-floor bedroom window at around 11pm on June 2, the court heard.
He then tied her up with cable ties and threatened that he would kill her if she did not comply and remain silent.
He forced Mrs Harding to go downstairs and get the front door keys so he could let his lover in through the front door.
After Hughes entered the property, Connors ran back upstairs to ‘clean out the bedroom’, the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, Hughes forced Mrs Harding into the living room, tied her up to a table with a vacuum cleaner cable and gagged her mouth with a pair of tights. She also unplugged the landline phone, preventing her from raising the alarm.
‘Her restraint led to bruising to her mouth and arm,’ Edmund Potts, prosecuting, told the court, adding that Hughes then ‘took all of the jewellery that she was wearing’. When Mrs Harding put up a struggle, Hughes warned her: ‘If I don’t take it he’ll rip it out.’
In total, the couple stole a 22-carat gold ring, an 18-carat gold ring, a gold wedding band, a silver Celtic cross necklace, a plain gold necklace and £600 in cash.
The pair, having completed their raid, fled the home, leaving Mrs Harding tied to the table. The 92-year-old managed to free herself and went to a neighbour’s house to report the crime.
Police used CCTV to identify the couple, track them down and arrest them.
Officers were then able to link Connors and Hughes to another raid in which they stole a backpack full of valuables, including a passport, from a front porch near their lodgings in Fallowfield.
The couple stole a 22-carat gold ring, an 18-carat gold ring, a gold wedding band, a silver Celtic cross necklace, a plain gold necklace and £600 in cash from the pensioner
Mrs Harding was left so traumatised by the attack that she struggled to sleep and avoided staying at her home for an entire month.
In a victim statement given to the court, she said that whenever she thinks of the incident it still ‘sends shivers down my spine’ adding: ‘I didn’t know if I was going to be battered or raped because of the stories I’ve heard.
‘It sends shivers down my spine when I think about it and I now jump at every bump in the night.
‘When the man came through the window I banged my head and also my hip, which had just been replaced. My heart started racing and I could feel it pounding in my chest. When he asked me to help his accomplice in through the front door I felt sick.
‘All the drawers had been emptied and it took a long time to get things back to normal. I stayed at my goddaughters’ for a month after the incident. I was OK during the day but got scared at night.
‘When I eventually moved back home I didn’t sleep for a month. I used to listen to the radio at night but now I go downstairs to watch TV so that I can feel safe at night.’
Connors and Hughes, who has now assumed her fiance’s surname despite not yet being married to him, were convicted of burglary, attempted burglary and fraud at Manchester Crown Court.
Connors was jailed for ten years and ten months and will be on licence until 2036 under the terms of an extended sentence.
Hughes was jailed for nine years and nine months with an extended licence period of two years and three months.
Hughes forced Mrs Harding into the living room, tied her up to a table with a vacuum cleaner cable and gagged her mouth with a pair of tights. She also unplugged the landline phone, preventing her from raising the alarm
Connors entered Mrs Harding’s second-floor bedroom window at around 11pm on June 2, 2022, the court heard. He then bound her with cable ties and threatened to kill her if she did not comply and remain silent
In sentencing, Judge Rachel Smith told the couple that their use of force was ‘significant’ and that they demonstrated a ‘spontaneous, high level of aggression against Mrs Harding.’
She added: ‘Instead of escaping down the ladder upon finding her you exploited her age, frailty and isolation within a house on her own.
‘It was a prolonged incident in which you both concealed your identity and left her locked in her own house, where she would have been left all night if she didn’t manage to free herself.’
The judge added that she was ‘not persuaded’ by Connors’ remorse due to his previous record. The convicted criminal also had a history of fleeing to France, Belgium and Germany to avoid arrest.
Inquiries revealed Connors, a father-of-two, had previously served eight years behind bars for raping an American tourist at Colin Glen Forest Park in West Belfast in 2008 when he was just 15.
After his release he clocked up another 22 other offences, including burglary, assault and failing to inform North Ireland police or Irish Garda of his address.
The latest offences meant he breached the terms of the Sex Offenders’ Register. Hughes had previous convictions for burglary, theft and possession of an imitation firearm.
Judge Smith said: ‘I have heard that he has been abusive and aggressive throughout the process.
‘It is clear that they are unfazed by entering into domestic properties. Leanna has scant regard for the consequences of her actions and although she has expressed remorse she does not understand the impact this has had on her victims.’
David Thompson, defending Connors, cited his ‘difficult childhood’, saying he was forced into a ‘transient lifestyle’ between Belfast and Dublin after his parents separated when he was young.
Mr Thompson added that Connors ‘never learnt to read or write’ and during his most recent stint in prison he had ‘became addicted to spice’. Upon release he ‘moved on to crack cocaine and then heroin’.
Officers linked Connors and Hughes to another raid in which they stole a backpack full of valuables, including a passport, from a front porch near their lodgings
The lawyer said: ‘There was an inevitability that this defendant would fall into a life of crime as a result of this. This lack of education has meant he has only occasionally worked, laying Tarmac.
‘He has two young children with his first wife in the Belfast area. In his words he is ashamed at what has done, but says that they did not target the victim because she was old but because her window was open. This offence was done to sustain a drug addiction.’
Kay Driver, defending Hughes, said: ‘She and Edward are a couple but have never married. In her interview with probation she expressed traditional views on relationships where a woman should take a role of deferring to the male partner.
‘She is a long-time heroin addict and her drug habit has blighted her for many years. Although she managed to stay off drugs for a while before the incident she relapsed following a traumatic miscarriage. She also has a history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against her.’
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