Gang made man suffer until death

A VILE gang of thieves hounded a frail disabled man until his death.Three members of the gang were sentenced yesterday after admitting repeatedly breaking into the Ipswich home of 54-year-old Peter Howard.

A VILE gang of thieves hounded a frail disabled man until his death.

Three members of the gang were sentenced yesterday after admitting repeatedly breaking into the Ipswich home of 54-year-old Peter Howard.

The body of Mr Howard, who had been dead for several days, was discovered on April 24 last year in his Canham Street home.

Yesterday Ipswich Crown Court heard how just before his death Mr Howard was beaten up by intruder Robert Wilson and then repeatedly burgled by others.

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Wilson, of Thackery Road, admitted a charge of assault with intent to rob.

Wilson appeared at the court alongside Nichola Cole and Dominic Cole, who both admitted charges of burglary at Mr Howard's home.

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Nichola Cole, of Wellington Court, also admitted a charge of possessing heroin after being arrested in January this year.

The offences the three defendants were charged with are believed to have happened before Mr Howard's death.

Mr Howard, who was 54, was described by prosecutor Michael Clare as being in poor health and having difficulty walking.

Mr Clare also said Mr Howard's home had been targeted several times before his death.

"Among the last experiences that he had to endure was that of being burgled," Mr Clare told the court.

"It was known among the criminal fraternity that Mr Howard was an easy target, he had been burgled several times by several people."

Mr Clare said Wilson, 42, had gone to the home of Mr Howard and had broken in through a window. There had then been a scuffle between Mr Howard and Wilson, and Wilson had held onto him by the head and neck.

"This was a man trying to protect his home during the course of a burglary," Mr Clare said.

Nichola Cole, 24, had been linked to a burglary at the house after her DNA matched that found on a cigarette butt there. She had at first denied knowing who Mr Howard was, but later admitted going to the house, the court was told.

Mr Clare said the prosecution had been unable to establish whether she had taken anything from the house.

Her brother, Dominic Cole, 22, had broken into the house while Mr Howard was not there and Mr Clare said a search of Cole's home in neighbouring Little Gipping Street had uncovered documents and bank books in Mr Howard's name.

For Wilson, Simon Spence said in mitigation that he had managed to break a drug habit during a recent spell in prison and had also helped a number of fellow inmates.

For Dominic Cole, Ian James told the court he had completed a detox programme while he was in prison and had made use of the prison education programmes.

Sentencing Wilson, Judge John Holt said: "You were not expecting the house to be occupied, but you were disturbed and there was a scuffle and during that scuffle you put your arm around the head and neck of Mr Howard. I note that you are large, strong man and I have already noted that Mr Howard was in very poor physical health.

"Finding a burglar in the house is a frightening enough experience, to have that burglar get hold of your head and neck must have been terrifying for him."

Wilson was sentenced to four and half years in prison.

Judge Holt then sentenced both Nichola Cole and Dominic Cole to 18-month drug treatment and testing orders.

He told the pair that if either of them breached the orders they would face imprisonment.

He told them: "If you don't do what you are supposed to do and breach them then you know where Wilson has gone and you know where you have come from."

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