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London burglar carried out series of acid attack robberies

Gerard Whelan, 46, from Paddington in London, was jailed for 18 years

A burglar, who carried out a series of ‘horrifying’ acid attack robberies which left one 69-year-old woman scarred for life, has been jailed for 18 years. 

Gerard Whelan, 46, from Paddington, London, squeezed acid from a white bottle onto the pensioner during a night-time burglary in Ilford on December 13, 2016.

When she woke up he was holding a screwdriver over her as she lay in her bed saying: ‘If you don’t be quiet I will kill you.’ 

He took a bangle and rings from her hand and arm and made her sit downstairs while he searched kitchen cupboards.

When she tried to escape he stopped her and squeezed a substance onto her from a white bottle causing her serious injuries. He also broke her little finger in a struggle for the screwdriver. 

She suffered burns to a quarter of her body and had to undergo skin grafts and surgeries, with permanent scars to her arms, legs, body and face. 

The acid was found to be of the same strength as sulphuric acid. 

The day before, Whelan had broke into another home in Ilford – the first of a series of offences on the same day. 

He threatened his 89-year-old victim with a screwdriver, sprayed a substance he said was acid on the wall, and demanded money. His victim handed over £190.

Later he assaulted a 62-year-old man in an attempted robbery during which he poured liquid from a container onto the man but as he was wearing a jacket the liquid did not touch his skin and he ran to his house.

Whelan also tried to rob a 39-year-old woman of a car as she was dropping her daughter off at school, attempting to spray her with liquid but missing.

Another man, aged 40, was squirted with liquid after he lowered the window of his car experiencing a burning sensation to his mouth and eyes. Whelan climbed into the car and demanded the car keys, but the victim took the keys and ran.

Acid injuries to Gerard Whelan’s victim (left) and the toxic substance on the floor (right)

Finally, that day, he assaulted a 38-year-old woman to try and steal her handbag, throwing over her face what she thought was acid, but later said smelt more like ammonia, from a small aerosol with the spray nozzle removed. 

She could feel liquid burning and stinging her skin and was unable to see out of her left eye. Although there was no permanent damage the cells on the surface of her eye had completely gone. He also attempted to throw the liquid at her husband when he tried to intervene.

On Christmas Day, Whelan pretended to be an undercover police officer to talk to a 36-year-old man sitting in a car in north London before squeezing from a bottle what the victim thought was acid into his eye but which was later cleaned with saline wash with no lasting damage to his face or eye. 

He also threatened him with a screwdriver but was unable to drive the car away.

Acid injuries to one of Gerard Whelan's victims

Acid injuries to one of Gerard Whelan’s victims

He then assaulted a second man, aged 62, in nearby Moffatt Road with the butt of a screwdriver four times while trying to get the keys to a car. DNA from a crutch which Whelan was carrying linked him to the offence.

Whelan also assaulted a 58-year-old woman, throwing her to the ground after she had started the engine of her car, hitting her with his crutch.

The thug was jailed today at Wood Green Crown Court. 

He admitted grievous bodily harm with intent at the same court on 14 July. Whelan, also admitted aggravated burglary at the same hearing. 

Senior Investigating Officer, DS Brett Hagen, said: ‘The length of the sentence today reflects the gravity and callous nature of these acid attacks. 

‘Whelan embarked on a series of horrifying offences against a raft of innocent and vulnerable members of the public, many of whom were lucky not to incur serious injury.

‘Unfortunately several of the victims did sustain life changing injuries as a result of being sprayed with a noxious substance. One of these elderly ladies spent over eight weeks in hospital and now, some nine months later, still hasn’t returned to work or regained full mobility of both arms. 

‘The attached pictures show the extent of the injuries Whelan inflicted on her, after he had threatened to kill her and she had tried to escape.’

Detective Superintendent Mike West, leading the response to corrosive attacks for the MPS, said: ‘This was a truly terrible series of offences, resulting in long lasting injuries to the victim’s and having an ongoing impact on them and their families. 

‘I would like to praise the victim’s for ensuring that Whelan got the sentence that met the seriousness of the crimes he has committed, and for Detective Sergeant Brett Hagen’s and DC Kevin Rowley dedication to the case and the families involved.

‘This is a message to anyone who seeks to cause another person harm with a corrosive substance who thinks we don’t have existing laws to tackle such attacks. 

‘We will put everything we have in to supporting members of our communities who report these crimes, we will track you down and we will make sure you have the same severe sentences, as Gerard Whelan got today, using the CPS and courts.’


A plucky 90-year-old today told how he helped detectives bring a serial acid attacker to justice after being robbed in his own home over breakfast.

Second World War veteran Albert Fox, 90, was confronted by maniac burglar Gerard Whelan, 45, in his kitchen in December last year. 

Despite being threatened with a 12 inch screwdriver and a bottle of acid Mr Fox kept his cool and struck up a conversation with Whelan. 

Whelan was jailed for 18 years for a string of burglaries and robberies using acid, including one in which a 69 year old woman was left with 25 per cent burns, requiring eight weeks in hospital.

Mr Fox said: ‘It was about quarter to eight in the morning and I was sat here ready to eat my breakfast.

Whelan, of Paddington, west London, was jailed at Wood Green Crown Court after he admitted grievous bodily harm with intent

Whelan, of Paddington, west London, was jailed at Wood Green Crown Court after he admitted grievous bodily harm with intent

‘I heard a thud at the front door and looked through the hall to see a man’s shadow. Before I knew what was going on he was in the kitchen.

‘I told him to get out, but he shouted he wanted money and pulled out this 12 inch screwdriver and a bottle, which he said was filled with acid.

‘I said “there’s no money down here pal”, so he marched me upstairs and said “we’ll have a look”.

‘I took the £40 I had out of my wallet and handed it over, but he said he wanted £100, – if he had that he would leave.

‘I keep some money in the next room so we went through into there and he grabbed it all before I had chance to count it.

‘I said ‘look mate I need to know how much there is so I can tell my insurance’.

‘I had £150. He let me count it out and then grabbed it back. I said ‘look I ain’t got any money now’. He gave me £25 back, so he must have a bit of a conscience.

‘He was going through some of the cupboards and I said to him are you Irish, he said yeah, I told him my mum was and I asked if he was Catholic, again he said yeah.

‘I asked if he had any children, he said yeah five and two are dead.

‘While he was looking through the cupboards I managed to get downstairs and outside, I started shouting help, burglar and he left.

‘He walked up the street, but someone tried to confront him and he sprayed the bottle at their face.’

Mr Fox said that detectives told him that when they picked Whelan up with acid and a screwdriver they decided to ask him the same questions he had asked.

He said: ‘He answered the exact same and the police realised it was connected.

‘I am glad he is behind bars, I didn’t think he would get that long but I am happy he is off the streets.’

Whelan, of Paddington, west London, was jailed at Wood Green Crown Court after he admitted grievous bodily harm with intent. 



The number of acid attacks taking place in Britain is soaring, with school children as young as 13 using corrosive substances as weapons.

Crime statistics show that there was more than 450 acid attacks in London alone last year, with the number of attacks in the capital more than doubling since 2014.

But experts say the real figure is much higher, with the true scale of the problem hidden because people are afraid to come forward. 

It is believed criminal gang members are carrying acid in drinks bottles because they are less likely to get caught than if they carry a knife or gun. 

Schoolchildren as young as 13 have also told how ‘squirting’ rivals with acid is easier than trying to stab or fight them.