A Bonnie and Clyde couple who gagged a 92-year-old grandmother with their own pantyhose and tied her to a chair in a series of raids have been jailed for more than 20 years.
Jean Harding was left in fear for her life when Edward Connors, 30, and his fiancee Leanna Hughes broke into her Manchester home late at night last June looking for valuables.
Connors, a convicted rapist, tied Ms Harding with a cable tie, dragged her downstairs and threatened to kill her if she refused to comply.
Hughes, 29, then stripped the grandmother of all her jewellery, including priceless heirlooms, and tied her up with a vacuum cleaner cable.
The couple were sentenced to a total of more than 20 years in prison after being found guilty of burglary, attempted burglary and fraud at Manchester Crown Court.
Edward Connors and Leanna Hughes gagged 92-year-old grandmother in her own pantyhose and tied her to a chair in a series of raids
Connors and Hughes were sentenced to a total of more than 20 years in prison after being found guilty of burglary, attempted burglary and fraud at Manchester Crown Court
The then newly engaged couple targeted Ms Harding’s property in Burnage, Manchester, in a series of crimes after arriving on the British mainland from their home in Dublin, Ireland.
Connors entered through the window of Ms Harding’s second-floor bedroom via a ladder around 11 p.m. on June 2, 2022, the court heard.
He then tied her up with cable ties and threatened to kill her if she did not obey and remained silent.
He forced Mrs. Harding downstairs and retrieved the front door keys so he could let her lover through the front door.
After Hughes entered the property, Connors ran upstairs to “clean up the room,” the prosecutor said.
Meanwhile, Hughes forced Mrs Harding into the living room, tied her to a table with a vacuum cleaner cable and gagged her mouth with a pair of pantyhose. She also disconnected the landline phone, preventing him from raising the alarm.
“Her restraint resulted in bruising to her mouth and arm,” prosecuting Edmund Potts told the court, adding that Hughes then “took all the jewelry she was wearing.”
Ms Harding struggled with her assailants, prompting Hughes to say: ‘If I don’t take it, he’ll tear it up.’
In total, the couple stole a 22-karat gold ring, an 18-karat gold ring, a gold wedding band, a silver Celtic cross necklace, a plain gold necklace and £600 in cash.
The pair, having completed their raid, fled the house, leaving Ms Harding tied to the table. The 92-year-old managed to free herself and went to a neighbor to report the crime.
Police used CCTV to identify the couple, locate them and make an arrest.
Officers were also able to link Connors and Hughes to another raid in which they stole a backpack full of valuables, including a passport, from a porch near their accommodation in Fallowfield.
The couple (pictured) stole a 22k gold ring, 18k gold ring, gold wedding band, silver Celtic cross necklace, plain gold necklace and £600 cash from the pensioner
Ms Harding was so traumatized by the attack that she struggled to sleep and avoided staying at home for an entire month.
She said in a victim impact statement given to the court that every time she thinks about the incident it “sends shivers down my spine”.
“I didn’t know if I was going to be beaten or raped because of the stories I heard,” the pensioner told the court.
“It sends shivers down my spine when I think about it and I now jump with every bump of the night.
“When the man came in through the window, I hit my head and also my hip, which had just been replaced. My heart started pounding and I could feel it pounding in my chest. When he asked me to help his accomplice through the front door, I felt sick.
She added: “All the drawers had been emptied and it took a long time for things to get back to normal. I stayed with my goddaughters for a month after the incident. I was fine during the day but I was scared at night.
“When I finally got home, I didn’t sleep for a month. Before, I used to listen to the radio at night, but now I go downstairs to watch TV to feel safe at night.
Connors and Hughes, who have now taken her fiancé’s surname despite not yet being married to him, were convicted of burglary, attempted burglary and fraud at Manchester Crown Court.
Connors was jailed for ten years and ten months and will be on license until 2006 under an extended sentence.
Hughes was jailed for nine years and nine months with an extended license term of two years and three months.
Hughes (pictured) forced Ms Harding into the living room, tied her to a table with a vacuum cleaner cord and gagged her mouth with a pair of pantyhose She also unplugged the landline, preventing him from raising the alarm.
Connors (pictured) entered the window of Ms Harding’s second floor bedroom via a ladder around 11pm on June 2, 2022, the court heard. He then tied her up with cable ties and threatened to kill her if she did not comply and remain silent.
At sentencing, Judge Rachel Smith told the couple that their use of force was “significant” and that they had engaged in a “spontaneous and high level of aggression against Ms Harding”.
She said: “Instead of escaping down the ladder when you found her, you exploited her age, her frailty and her isolation in a house all by yourself.”
“It was a protracted incident, in which you both hid your identities and left her locked in her own home, where she would have been left overnight if she failed to break free.”
The judge added that she was “unconvinced” by Connors’ remorse due to her previous record. The convicted criminal had also fled to France, Belgium and Germany to avoid arrest.
Inquests have revealed father-of-two Connors had already served eight years behind bars for raping an American tourist at the Colin Glen Forest adventure park in West Belfast in 2008 when he was just 15 .
After his release he committed 22 other offenses including burglary, assault and failing to inform the Police of Northern Ireland or the Irish Garda of his address.
The latest offenses meant he breached the terms of the sex offender registry. Leanna had previous convictions for robbery with burglary and possession of an imitation firearm.
Justice Smith said: ‘I heard he was abusive and aggressive throughout the process and was under the influence while in custody.
“Clearly they are not fazed by entering domestic properties. Leanna has little regard for the consequences of her actions and although she has expressed remorse, she does not understand the impact it has had on her victims.
By way of mitigation, barrister David Thompson cited Connors’ ‘difficult childhood’ which saw him living his life between Belfast and Dublin.
The defense attorney argued that Connors was forced into a “transient lifestyle” because his parents separated when he was young.
Mr Thompson added that ‘he never learned to read or write’ and that when he was last in prison the convict had ‘become addicted to spices’. Upon his release, he “switched to crack, then heroin”.
Officers were also able to link Connors and Hughes (pictured) to another raid in which they stole a backpack full of valuables, including a passport, from a porch near their accommodation in Fallowfield
“It was inevitable that this defendant would fall into a life of crime because of this,” he argued. “This lack of education meant he only occasionally worked laying tarmac.
“He has two young children with his first wife in the Belfast area. In his words he is ashamed of what he did but says they did not target the victim because she was elderly but because her window was open. This offense was committed to maintain a drug addiction.
Defense barrister Kay Driver, representing Hughes, said: ‘She and Edward are a couple but never married. In her probation interview, she expressed traditional views about relationships in which a woman should take on the role of deferring to the male partner.
“She has been addicted to heroin for a long time and her drug addiction has ruined her for many years. Although she had managed to avoid drugs for some time before the incident, she relapsed following a traumatic miscarriage. She also has a history of sexual, physical and emotional abuse against her.
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