Just put me behind bars

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A ROBBER who confessed to three murders carried out a reign of terror on vulnerable pensioners – because he believed he was better off behind bars.

Craig Bell, of Spencer Court, Blackpool, made up false confessions about killing people so he would be jailed.

The 40-year-old’s admissions came to light while he was in court facing charges for robbery and burglary - but police inquiries failed to substantiate any of his claims.

Bell got his wish to be sent to prison after a judge said it was “impossible to say how dangerous he is”.

He was sentenced to a minimum of three years and seven months at Preston Crown Court yesterday after admitting three robberies and five burglaries.

Judge Andrew Woolman told him: “Prison isn’t a hotel which one can have cause to ask for it. There has to be proper criteria before imposing an indeterminate sentence for public protection, whatever the wishes of a defendant might be.

“The defendant has said himself that he has killed several people over the years. It may be just utter fantasy, cooked up by the defendant to ensure he stays in prison as long as possible, but it may not be.

“It is impossible to say how dangerous he is at the moment.”

The court heard Bell largely targeted elderly victims to get cash for drugs.

On each occasion he tricked his way into their homes, sometimes using a degree of force, before stealing cash and jewellery.

Paul Brookwell, prosecuting, told how a 70-year-old man also living at Spencer Court was robbed twice by Bell in late 2009.

The robber pulled the front door open, knocking the man over before going on to steal cigarettes and cash. Some days earlier, he had stolen £40 from the same man after putting him in a headlock.

The victim died last year.

Burglaries also took place on Adstone Avenue, Claremont Court and Walter Robinson Court.

The eldest victim was an 88-year-old woman living at Spencer Court.

Bell claimed he needed to call a doctor because someone in a downstairs flat was very ill.

Once inside her home, he stole and then pawned jewellery including an eternity ring she had owned for more than 40 years.

Det Con Liam Davy, of Blackpool Police’s robbery team, said: “His offences spanned a couple of years.

“He is a ruthless criminal who targeted vulnerable members of the community - some of whom have sadly passed away.

“Blackpool is going to be a safer place without him.”

When arrested by police, Bell admitted the offences.

He told officers: “I’ve been doing it for years. I’ve done hundreds of them over the years.”

When he first appeared at crown court, in August last year, his barrister Sarah Booth announced: “I am instructed by my client to inform the court that he wishes to admit three murders and he wishes the police to investigate them.”

Ms Booth said Bell had a personality disorder, a mild depressive disorder and also post traumatic stress disorder.

She added: “He believes he is better off in custody. He wishes to make it clear to the court that if released he would commit further serious offences.

“He has suffered throughout his life with hearing voices and messages from the television set.

“He reports latterly hearing similar voices over the prison tannoy and radio system. He has sought intervention because of these issues.”

Bell will only be released from prison when he is no longer considered a danger of committing further serious offences.

Judge Woolman added: “You will not be released unless a psychiatrist and others decide it is safe to release you.”