'I felt sick' | 

Dublin-based couple locked up for terrorising English OAP with vacuum cable

‘I didn’t know if I was going to be battered or raped because of the stories I’ve heard’

Edward Connors and Leanna Hughes robbed a pensioner in Manchester.

Connors was previously sentenced for serious crimes. Picture by Mal McCann

Níall FeiritearSunday World

A newly-engaged Dublin based couple who gagged a 92-year-old grandmother with tights and tied her up during a series of robberies have been sentenced to more than 20 years in prison in the UK.

Edward Connors and Leanna Hughes had recently announced their engagement on Facebook when they tied Jean Harding (92) to a chair in Manchester during a series of raids last June, having left their home in Dublin.

“Now every bump in the night scares me,” the innocent gran said in her victim impact statement to Manchester Crown Court.

Connors tied Mrs Harding with a cable tie, dragged her downstairs, and threatened to kill her if she refused to comply. Hughes stripped her of all her jewellery, including priceless family heirlooms, and tied her up with a vacuum cable.

They ripped out the pensioner’s telephone so she couldn’t call for help, left her covered in bruises and at one point screamed: “If we don’t get it, we’ll rip it out.”

The couple were sentenced after being convicted of burglary, attempted burglary and fraud. The pair nicked a 22-carat gold ring, an 18-carat gold ring, a gold wedding band, a silver Celtic cross necklace, a gold chain and £600 in cash during the raid in Burnage.

The couple managed to gain entry by using a ladder to climb into the gran’s bedroom.

In her victim impact statement, Mrs Harding said: “It sends shivers down my spine when I think about it and I now jump at every bump in the night. I didn’t know if I was going to be battered or raped because of the stories I’ve heard.

“When the man came through the window, I hit my head and also my hip, which had just been replaced. My heart began to beat faster and I felt it pounding in my chest. When he asked me to help his accomplice through the front door, I felt sick.

“All the drawers were emptied, and it took a long time for everything to return to normal. I stayed with my goddaughters for a month after the incident. During the day I was fine, but at night I got scared,” Ms Harding added.

Ms Hughes’s lawyer tried to offer mitigating circumstances for his client’s crimes.

“She has been addicted to heroin for a long time and her drug use has plagued her for years. Although she was able to stay off drugs for a while before the incident, she relapsed after suffering a traumatic miscarriage. She also has a history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against her,” he said.

Judge Rachel Smith told the pair during sentencing: “I have heard that he has been abusive and aggressive throughout the process and was under the influence while in custody. 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.”

Investigations revealed that Connors had previously spent eight years behind bars for raping an American tourist at West Belfast’s Colin Glen Forest adventure park in 2008.

After his release, he registered a further 22 other crimes, including burglary, assault and failure to give his address to police.

Connors lawyer blamed an addiction to the drug known as ‘spice’, as well as cocaine and heroin.

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