Fylde gran, 89, fights off burglar with porcelain dog

A plucky pensioner fought off an armed robber in her home when she smacked her with a porcelain dog.

Monday, 7th May 2018, 7:30 am
Karen Wilson, whose mum Jean fought off an armed robber in her home, with daughter Nicola

And brave Jean Clarke, 89, also told thug Mary Duffy: “You’re not taking my grandchildren’s pennies,” as she batted cash tins out of her hand with her walking stick.

Duffy, 42, subjected the pensioner to a terrifying ordeal at her Fleetwood home by holding a knife to her chest. But the great-great-great gran fought back by pulling Duffy’s hair, punching her, hitting her with a tin, and finally hurling a porcelain Scottie dog heirloom at her, a court heard.

Mrs Clarke, a widow with 10 children, was too frail to speak to The Gazette, but her proud relatives revealed her courageous battle as Duffy, of Heathfield Road, Fleetwood, begins an eight-and-a-half-year jail term.

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The OAP, described in court as a ‘strong willed and rather feisty lady’, had believed it was her son knocking at her door at 8.30pm on February 22, but was met by Duffy, who was already on bail for stealing from a vulnerable man.

The pensioner knew Duffy’s partner and, despite the cowardly intruder wearing a scarf over her face, she recognised her instantly.

After her valiant attempts to bat the money tins out of Duffy’s hands with her cane, the robber fled with just two packets of cigarettes, Preston Crown Court was told.

Despite her courage, the ordeal has hit the retired probation officer hard, and her family say she is now too frightened to leave her home on her mobility scooter, or do her gardening.

Daughter Karen Wilson, 57, said: “ My mum has had a lot of tragedy in her life. She lost my dad when he was 53. One of my sisters has spina bifida and is in a wheelchair, and two of my brothers have died– one from throat cancer and one from leukaemia.

“She met many criminals during her career but in all those years she never came across anyone as bad as this.

“While my mum feels very lucky to still be here, she

has said Duffy has basically ended her life.

“She grabbed her hair believing that if she didn’t, she would be stabbed to death.

“Mary Duffy will go on to have a life after prison but I don’t know how much longer I have my mum for.

“It’s a great injustice that she is doing gardening tasks in prison, something my mum loved and had won awards for, but is now too terrified to leave her home to do.”

Mrs Clarke’s grandson-in-law, Paul Cowell, said: “These criminals think little old ladies are easy pickings but she met her match in Jean.

“She was shocked.”

The family say they have glued the porcelain dog’s tail back on and have given it back to Mrs Clarke.

Prosecuting, Nick Kennedy revealed Duffy had 37 convictions for 110 offences.

Defending, Sharon Watson described Duffy’s turbulent background and traumatic past, including losing her partner and stepson.

She added: “It’s obvious that this became a rather physical and violent confrontation.

“She is deeply, deeply ashamed of her conduct.

“She finds it very difficult to understand why she behaved in the way she did.”

Duffy was also sentenced for burgling the home of a vulnerable man in Devonshire Road, Blackpool, telling him she was a community health worker and using his bank card to steal £250.

She also admitted stealing a £300 television during a break-in at an address on Rhyl Street, Fleetwood.

Her co-defendant in that case, Catherine Smith, 54, of Pharos Street, Fleetwood, admitted handling the stolen TV and was given a rehabilitation order.

Referring to Mrs Clarke, Judge Andrew Woolman said: “Despite her age she was feisty and made a very determined effort to try to prevent you from stealing money which she was saving for her grandchildren.

“But you had come armed with some sort of knife and worst you held it across her chest causing a scratch.

“You didn’t succeed in getting the money because she put up such resistance.

“Not surprisingly the victim of this offence is traumatised.

“You’ve had an appalling life.

“Your whole life has been blighted by drugs and men who abuse you.

“This robbery is the culmination of four years of being out of control.”