A man who carried out a brutal attempted robbery on a frail 69-year-old woman will die in jail - after he was diagnosed with a rare terminal cancer.
Brandon Cliffe struck the elderly woman on the back of her head with a brick as she walked down Padholme Road last year.
The woman, who the court was told used the shopping trolley not only for her shopping but also as a walking frame, was left in a pool of her own blood as a result of the wound caused by Cliffe.
Today (Friday) Cliffe was given a nine year jail sentence for the horrifying assault - but the court heard there was a ‘distinct possibility - even probability’ he would not survive past his 21st birthday next month.
The court heard Cliffe had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of kidney cancer since he was found guilty of the attack, and the cancer had spread to other parts of his body. A letter written to the court earlier in the month said Cliffe had just a year to live, but Nenad Spasojevic, defending, said: “The latest information I have is there is a distinct possibility, if not a probability, that he will not live to see his 21st birthday (on March 26).”
Mr Spasojevic said there would be an appeal to the secretary of state for Cliffe to be released from prison on compassionate grounds.
Cliffe (20) was not in court to hear the sentence, which has handed out by Judge Matthew Lowe.
Judge Lowe said there was case law on defendants who have terminal illnesses being given reduced sentences. He said: “A court may take into account any significant serious medical conditions suffered by the defendant in deciding sentences.”
Judge Lowe said the starting point for sentencing of a robbery of this kind would normally be eight years - but because of the level of violence used, and Cliffe’s previous convictions, the sentence would be harsher than that starting point. He said he had taken Cliffe’s youth and medical condition into account in sentencing him to nine years.
Two teenage boys, who came to the pensioners aid, pushing Cliffe away before chasing him, and identifying him to police - were each given £150 rewards for their ‘courageous’ behaviour.
Judge Lowe said they ‘should be proud of themselves, and their families should be proud of them,’ and the reward was a small token of appreciation from the community for the work they had done.
He said: “I want to say how impressive the behaviour of the two boys was, on the day in going to the aid of the victim, having the courage to approach the defendant in the middle of a vicious assault, push him away, pursue him, and then assist in police in hiding him.
“They were courageous in a way many of us can only aspire to be.”
“They were persuasive witnesses, and without their evidence this defendant would not have been convicted.“
Judge Lowe also praised the incredible bravery from the victim of the attack, who had gripped her trolley to stop Cliffe taking it.
But the court heard the attack had left a lasting impact on her.
In a victim statement read to the court by prosecutor Caroline Allison, she said: “This attack has left me emotionally crippled.
“I can’t leave my house on my own.
I have anxiety problems, and I am on medication for it as a result.
“My independence has been taken from me.”
DC Victoria Speirs said: “This was a vicious and unprovoked attack on a frail woman, and the outcome could have been so much worse.
“The two members of the public who intervened were very brave in trying to stop Cliffe, and I want to publicly thank them for the courage they showed.
“Cliffe was clearly ready to use any force necessary in an attempt to commit this robbery and the sentence handed down in this case reflects the severity of the crime.”
Cliffe pleaded not guilty to attempted robbery and assault, but a jury of 11 (One member had been taken ill) took less than an hour to find him guilty last month.
The woman, aged 69, suffered a serious head wound in the attack, and was left screaming in shock and pain.
Peterborough Crown Court heard how the woman was walking down the street on July 30 2018, just before 7pm when the attack happened.
Tim Brown, who prosecuted the trial, opened the case and at the start of the trial he said: “Somebody - the prosecution say this defendant - came up behind her and tried to grab the trolley.
She resisted and clung on, and there was a struggle. “The prosecution say at that point the defendant picked up a stone or half brick, and clouted her over the head, causing a 4cm gash. “She was in distress, on the floor screaming.”
Mr Brown added: “They pointed the man out to police, and they conducted a search. They flushed him out of the bushes, and he ran off - but he only ran a short distance before he was arrested.” Mr Brown said one of the boys picked Cliffe out in a video identity procedure the following day.
When he was interviewed by police, Cliffe said he had been drinking in the subway with an acquaintance at the time of the attack, and denied carrying out the assault.
He said his friend had ran off from the scene, and he had also fled when he was approached by youths - but said he had given himself up when asked to by police.
He said: “We were walking home, and he ran off. I don’t know what for. “I was quizzing in my head. I thought it was strange. “There was a woman ion the floor, crying, blood everywhere, and ambulance there - I see police, and I ran away.” Samantha Marsh, defending, asked if Cliffe had seen what had happened. He said: “I saw William run over, pick up a brick and attempt to rob the woman. I saw him do it. “He picked up a brick from the side of the road and ran over to the woman from behind and hit her on the head. “I ran away.” Cliffe said he had ran away because he was afraid he would be recalled to prison for missing a probation appointment. He told the jury he had changed his story from when he was interviewed by police because he had a condition which makes him forget things - and since his arrest he had remembered what happened. The court also heard Cliffe had pleaded guilty to a previous attempted robbery in 2017.