Ex-teacher’s fall from grace as she got hooked on drugs and stole from elderly

A former teacher and Ofsted inspector has been jailed for stealing from pensioners in "despicable" burglaries to feed her drug habit.

Mum-of-three Elenor Proctor told a judge her life "just spiralled out of control" and she was a "functioning addict", using Class A drugs for over 15 years.

The court heard the 36-year-old had been living a "thoroughly decent" life as a teacher and Ofsted inspector but got hooked on heroin and crack cocaine and became homeless.

Proctor and her boyfriend Patrick Nicholson, a self-confessed "smackhead", have now been jailed for preying on pensioners in Salford, the Manchester Evening News reports.

She was sentenced to four years and he was jailed for eight years at Manchester Crown Court.

Judge Richard Mansell QC told her during sentencing: "Yours is a salutary tale in the evils of drugs, and particularly heroin and crack cocaine."

The court heard that Proctor met dad-of-four Nicholson, 34, when she ended up homeless after leaving her partner of 15 years, and they began to prey on OAPs in burglaries.

In late March and early April, the pair targeted four homes in Eccles, and in one case approached an 83-year-old woman at a bus stop and told her there was a water leak nearby and her pipes had to be checked.

After letting the pair into her home, Nicholson, who had served a six-year prison sentence for attempted robbery, pretended to check the pipes and asked for payment.

They obtained her bank card and PIN, and withdrew £2,050 from a cash machine.

In a similar incident, Nicholson and Proctor, both of Wakefield, stole about £20,000 worth of jewellery from a 69-year-old man's safe, and tried to pawn it.

Around the same time, a 76-year-old woman had her handbag stolen when she asked Nicholson and Proctor to leave.

It contained more than £130 in cash, a bank card later used in a shop, and sentimental family keepsakes including her grandfather's pocket watch, and pictures of her grandchildren and locks of their hair.

Nicholson and Proctor, both originally from Bradford, targeted a couple in their late 60s, with the former teacher claiming they had installed an aquarium nearby and they needed to check they hadn't damaged their water supply.

Inside the couple's home, Nicholson stole £30 in cash and bank cards later used in a shop.

Many of the victims told police they were left so traumatised they no longer feel safe in their own homes, and the 83-year-old woman said she began to barricade herself in her home at night using stepladders, the court heard.

The judge allowed Nicholson – the ringleader – and Proctor to address him from the dock.

Proctor tried to justify the crimes and defend Nicholson, saying: "He gave me somewhere to live. I was on the streets.

"This isn’t me. I’m not a burglar. I lost everything in the space of a week.

"I just spiralled out of control. I have to say Mr Nicholson tried to help me. He didn’t try to coerce me or anything

"We needed this Your Honour, or we would have ended up dead."

Nicholson told the judge: "These crimes are shameful, they bring shame on my family.

"I deserve hanging for them. I know that, you know that."

He added: "When you're on crack cocaine all your morals go out of the window."

Defending Proctor, Mark Friend said: "This defendant went from a decent, well remunerated existence to the abuse of class A drugs and the commission of offences like this."

Kate Hammond said Nicholson, who she said described himself as a "smackhead", is on detox in prison.

Sentencing, Judge Mansell told the pair: "You deliberately targeted elderly, vulnerable householders living in the Eccles area.

"Such offences are cowardly and despicable and have huge and often long lasting effects on the victims."

Addressing Proctor, the judge added: "For you this is a spectacular, but in many ways inevitable fall from the life you once had, with a decent job and family, to being homeless on the street, to now facing a prison sentence in your mid-30s."

Both pleaded guilty to four counts of burglary and two counts of fraud.

Nicholson also asked for eight offences of burglary committed in West Yorkshire to be taken into account by the sentencing judge.

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