A 29-year-old woman who stole cash and jewellery from two “vulnerable” men was has been handed a 30-month sentence.
Lesa Knocker, whose address was given as Hydebank, will serve 15 months in custody with a further 15 months spent on supervised licence when she is released from prison after she pleaded guilty to five charges arising from an incident earlier this year.
Belfast Crown Court heard that Knocker targeted two residents who lived at Fletcher Lodge in south Belfast, which provides sheltered accommodation for people with difficulties.
Prosecutor Philip Henry revealed one of Knocker’s victims had celebral palsy. He also revealed she had a history of ingratiating herself with “men who have vulnerabilities”.
At around 5.30pm on January 16, a resident of Fletcher Lodge exited his flat and saw two women – one of whom was Knocker – at the door of a 74-year old man who lived on his own. As he walked into the corridor, the two woman approached him. He was then pushed out of the way and Knocker entered his flat and closed the door.
She remained in the flat for around five minutes, and while she said she was using the toilet, the occupant heard Knocker “rummaging inside while he stood in the corridor”.
When she exited the flat, she and the second woman left the block of flats. When he returned to his flat, the occupant noticed his safe was open and £1,400 was missing.
He reported the theft to police the following day, and whilst at the flats officers were approached by a second resident who has celebral palsy and difficulties communicating. He was able to tell police that the previous day he invited two women into his flat for a cup of tea.
He said that once inside, the woman started going through his cupboards and stole two gold chains and a gold ring.
Police were able to identify Knocker from CCTV footage, and she was later located on the Malone Avenue area of Belfast, where she displayed signs she was under the influence of drugs.
When she was searched, £910 in cash was found inside her bra. She was also found to be in possession of a quantity of Diazepam.
Knocker initially denied the thefts – describing the two injured parties from Fletcher House as friends of hers – but she subsequently pleaded guilty to five charges including two counts of theft and possession of Diazepam with intent to supply.
The court heard she has previous convictions for drugs and dishonesty offences, and she committed the offences in January whilst under a suspended sentence.
Passing sentence, Judge McFarland said: “I accept you had a rather chaotic lifestyle and to fund that lifestyle you found it necessary to steal.” He also warned Knocker that if she continued to offend she could expect to receive “substantial prison sentences”.