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broad daylight Woman (95) collecting money for Ukrainian refugees knocked to ground and robbed court told

The victim suffered a fractured shoulder and facial injuries in the attack and £200 was taken, a court heard

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A 95-year-old woman knocked to the ground in Belfast city centre was robbed of £200 she had collected to help those fleeing the war in Ukraine, the High Court heard today.

Prosecutors revealed that she suffered a fractured shoulder when her handbag containing the money for charity was snatched last week in broad daylight.

Details emerged as a 26-year-old woman accused of targeting the victim to fund a drug habit mounted an application for bail.

Aoife McDowell, of Bell Steel Manor in Belfast, faces charges of robbery, causing grievous bodily harm, theft and possession of cannabis.

The pensioner was targeted in the Castle Lane area at around 4pm on March 10.

Crown counsel Mark Farrell said: “A female grabbed her handbag containing £200 in cash, causing her to fall to the ground.

“She had collected (the money) for a Ukrainian appeal and was going to deliver it to a charity.”

The victim sustained a fractured left shoulder, extensive facial injuries, and remains in hospital, the barrister disclosed.

McDowell is allegedly connected to the attack by CCTV and clothing evidence.

She was seen leaving a nearby Boots store following the suspected theft of £71 worth of cosmetics and walking towards Castle Lane, according to the prosecution.

Although the robbery was not captured on CCTV, Mr Farrell claimed footage shows McDowell fleeing the scene seconds later.

Police searched her home on Sunday, discovering a quantity of suspected cannabis and clothing said to match items that a witness described the robber as wearing, the court heard.

McDowell denied carrying out the handbag snatch, claiming she had been at home and then with a friend.

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Opposing bail, counsel submitted that the accused has been injecting cocaine.

“The police view is she was robbing the injured party of cash to fund a drug habit,” he said.

“This was a very nasty incident involving a very vulnerable member of the community, £200 due to be given to a charity supporting Ukraine was taken, and it happened in the middle of the city centre.”

Defence barrister Sean Mullan acknowledged: “I understand there are some addiction issues lurking in the background for Ms McDowell.”

Adjourning her bid to be released from custody, Mr Justice O’Hara called for more information on any available treatment programmes.

He stressed: “I’m not going to grant bail to a lady who injects cocaine without some sort of plan.”

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