A JUDGE has praised the courage of an 85-year-old Blackpool woman who had to give evidence at the trial of a TV aerial fitter who drugged and sexually assaulted her in her own home.
Darren Penfold, 49, from Cleveleys, was jailed indefinitely after he was found guilty of slipping Class C controlled drugs BZP and TFMPP into the woman’s glass of whisky.
The pensioner came round on her bed the following morning, not fully clothed, and had no recollection of how she got upstairs.
Police were called when she began to remember a man had abused her.
She reacted angrily under cross-examination from counsel for Penfold as she was forced to give evidence at his trial at Preston Crown Court in September.
She broke down in tears as she told the jury: “I am not used to anyone like that man.
“I have never known anyone like that man. He has altered my whole life.
“I do not recognise myself as the same person. I used to trust anyone.”
Sentencing Penfold, Judge Pamela Badley said: “This woman gave evidence in a cogent and courageous manner.
“In her long life the events which she spoke of here were distressing but she recognised it was her duty to bear witness and for the jury to decide.
“Her victim impact statement shows she has been greatly affected by what has happened.
“She is physically affected, she wakes every night, she is worried about people coming into her home and she says ‘I do not know who I can trust’.
“She was an optimistic individual and has been greatly affected.”
Addressing the defendant, she said it was a “pitiless, wicked crime” and added: “This was an horrific attack on an elderly woman in her own home.”
She said Penfold was considered to be a risk to public harm and sentenced him to serve a minimum of six years in jail before he can be considered for release by a parole board.
He had been convicted of sexual assault and administering a substance with intent to engage in sexual activity.
The father-of-three had been doing ongoing work at the woman’s property in Blackpool and committed the attack in January last year when he visited on the pretence of volunteering to move her old television.
The self-employed installer, of North Drive, had worked across the North West for 25 years.
At his trial earlier this year, Penfold said he was “absolutely mortified” by the allegations.
He said: “To this day I can’t get over being accused of doing that to somebody, ”
The jury rejected his account, however.
Yesterday, Penfold’s barrister, Richard Hunt, said his client continued to maintain his innocence and was supported in court by his partner and family, who also wrote letters of support to the judge.
Pleading for a fixed determinate sentence, he said: “He is still supported by his family. He is not an outcast.”