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"Cruel" gang who targeted elderly jailed

PUBLISHED: 16:21 30 September 2010 | UPDATED: 15:51 12 November 2010

A HAROLD HILL man who was one of a "cruel" gang who preyed on the vulnerable and elderly to make them hand over property and cash has been jailed for seven years.

Peter Gilheney, 26, of Bell Flower Path, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to burgle and fraud, this week.

As he jailed the gang for a total of 30 years, Judge Andrew Patience QC told Maidstone Crown Court their actions had “devastated” the lives of their victims.

The court was told the gang of eight, who targeted the elderly, claimed they were water board workers, but once inside their victims’ homes they stole valuables and cash.

Passing sentence, Judge Patience told the men: “Your offences which targeted the elderly and the vulnerable to obtain their money or property were not just mean, they were also cruel.

“They had the effect of devastating the lives of the victims. They undermine the sense of security we are all are entitled to in our homes. The effect continues to be lasting. Victims are anxious and worried about their situations.”

He said offences of this nature merited substantial jail sentences.

Prosecutor, Jonathan Higgs told the court one victim was 87-year-old Bertha Nerney, of Dunton Green, Kent. She died two days after the trial of the two men involved in robbing her.

On the day of the robbery she was watching TV and the pair said they wanted to check pipes at her home. While she was distracted £500 was stolen.

In a statement later her daughter said Mrs Nerney was devastated by the theft and added: “The burglary finished mum.”

They also targeted a vulnerable 63-year-old man, from Queens Park Road, Harold Wood, falsely telling him he needed to have his driveway re-laid and an external wall damp survey.

The gang were finally run to ground thanks to a witness who took the number of a vehicle they were using.

The car was spotted and, after a police chase four men fled the vehicle, but they were arrested later. Others were snared in April by Met Police undercover officers.

The other gang members were Patrick O’Driscoll, 36, of Barnet Road, Potters Bar, Hertfordshire; James Casey, 30, also of Potters Bar; Francis Dunne, 24, of Bashley Road, north-west London; James O’Driscoll, 30, of Winterbourne, Bristol; Michael O’Driscoll, 32, also of Winterbourne, Bristol; Richard McCarthy, 43, of West Drayton, west London; and Thomas McCarthy, 22, also of West Drayton, west London.

They were each sentenced to between two and six years for various fraud and theft conspiracy charges.

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