The ‘spectacular’ fall from grace of a former teacher and Ofsted inspector was completed as she was jailed for her part in ‘despicable’ burglaries targeting the elderly.
Elenor Proctor, 36, and her boyfriend, self confessed ‘smackhead’ Patrick Nicholson, 34, were both locked up after the pair admitted tricking their way into elderly people’s homes in Salford before stealing from them.
Nicholson was jailed for eight years and Proctor for four.
‘I just spiralled out of control,’ Proctor told a judge.
Manchester Crown Court heard the mother-of-three had previously worked as a teacher and Ofsted inspector, living a ‘thoroughly decent’ life. But Proctor admitted she was a ‘functioning addict’ and had been using class A drugs for more than 15 years.
Ex-teacher Elenor Proctor, 36, who has been jailed for four years for burgling elderly people
Sentencing, Judge Richard Mansell QC told her: ‘Yours is a salutary tale in the evils of drugs, and particularly heroin and crack cocaine.’
Her barrister said the 15-year relationship with her former partner was ‘not loving’ and that she decided to end it ‘for the benefit of her and her children’.
When her partner made ‘malicious allegations’ about her, Proctor was prevented from entering the family home and ended up homeless, the court was told.
She then met Nicholson, a father-of-four who served a six-year prison sentence for attempted robbery.
The pair were together for a ‘matter of months’ when, to feed their class A drugs habits, they began to commit the burglaries.
The judge said Nicholson was the ‘brains’ behind the criminal scheme, but that Proctor played a ‘full and vital part’.
In just over a week in late March and early April, the pair, both originally from Bradford, struck at four households in Eccles.
They approached an 83-year-old woman at a bus stop near her home and told her that her pipes needed to be checked, because there had been a water leak nearby. She let the pair into her home, and after Nicholson had pretended to check the pipes he asked for payment.
He took away her card and PIN number, promising to bring a receipt.
They rushed to a cash machine in Monton and withdrew £2,050. The victim now sometimes shakes uncontrollably when she recalls her ordeal, and began barricading herself into her home at night using stepladders.
Patrick Nicholson, 34, who has been jailed for eight years after committing burglaries targeting the elderly
Days later, Nicholson knocked on the door of a 76-year-old woman’s home and claimed his son had kicked a ball into her garden.
At one point Nicholson changed his story and the woman, who had been burgled the week before, realised what was happening.
She asked them to leave, but one of them stole her handbag, which contained more than £130 and a bank card later used in a shop.
Items of sentimental value, including her grandfather’s pocket watch, which she was taking to get fixed, and pictures of her grandchildren and locks of their hair were also lost.
After the burglary she didn’t feel safe in her own home and felt ‘silly’ and ’embarrassed’, the court heard.
The day after, a couple in their late 60s were approached by Proctor, who said she worked for a fish company and that they had been installing an aquarium nearby.
She told the couple they needed to check they hadn’t damaged their water supply in the process.
While they were distracted, Nicholson stole £30 in cash and a number of bank cards, which were later used in a shop.
Days later the pair were at it again, targeting a 69-year-old man and claiming that he had burst water pipes which needed to be fixed.
Nicholson went inside and found a safe containing jewellery worth about £20,000. He threw it out of the window and collected it after leaving the house.
They tried to pawn the jewellery but police acted quickly and recovered it.
The man said he felt ‘utterly abused’ and ‘unable to trust people’ anymore.
In extraordinary scenes in court, the judge allowed Nicholson and Proctor to address him from the dock.
Nicholson said: ‘I don’t know where to start, Your Honour. ‘These crimes are shameful, they bring shame on my family.
‘I deserve hanging for them. I know that, you know that. ‘I have been on drugs for the past eight years.
‘I have never done anything like this in my life before. I am normally a car thief.
‘When you’re on crack cocaine all your morals go out of the window.’
Proctor also spoke and defended Nicholson, saying he hadn’t got her onto drugs and that he had offered her somewhere to live.
She said: ‘He gave me somewhere to live. I was on the streets. I have to give him credit for that.
‘This isn’t me. I’m not a burglar. I lost everything in the space of a week. ‘I just spiralled out of control. I have to say Mr Nicholson tried to help me. He didn’t try to coerce me or anything.
‘We needed this Your Honour, or we would have ended up dead.’
Defending Proctor, who has no previous convictions, Mark Friend said: ‘This defendant went from a decent, well remunerated existence to the abuse of class A drugs and the commission of offences like this.’
Kate Hammond said Nicholson, who she said described himself as a ‘smackhead’, is on detox in prison.
She said Nicholson, who is illiterate and from a ‘travelling family’, had used drugs ‘block out things’ after he was abused as a child.
Nicholson ‘accepts he needs help’ and his family are ‘ashamed’ of him, Ms Hammond added.
Sentencing, Judge Mansell told the pair: ‘So low did you both go that you chose quite consciously to finance your addictions by committing these distraction burglaries, which are amongst the worst kind of dwelling house burglary offences.
‘You deliberately targeted elderly, vulnerable householders living in the Eccles area.
‘Such offences are cowardly and despicable and have huge and often long lasting effects on the victims.’
Addressing Proctor, of Station Lane, Wakefield, the judge added: ‘For you this is a spectacular, but in many ways inevitable fall from the life you once had, with a decent job and family, to being homeless on the street, to now facing a prison sentence in your mid 30s.’
Both pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary and two counts of fraud. Nicholson, of Carleton View, Wakefield, also asked for eight offences of burglary committed in West Yorkshire to be taken into account by the sentencing judge.