Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Pair jailed for 'heartless robbery' of disabled man in East Lothian

A woman has been jailed for four years for robbing a disabled man in his home in an attack which left him fearing he was going to be murdered.

Angela Ryan, 36, from Prestonpans, admitted staging the masked assault and robbery on John Toal, 58, at his home in the East Lothian in August 2016.

Her co-accused, Jason Kirkby, 44, was jailed for five years after admitting the attack and robbery.

During his ordeal Mr Toal was rendered unconscious from a noose on his neck.

At the High Court in Edinburgh Ryan's counsel described it as "a horrible and brutish crime".

Severe brain injury

Lady Scott told the pair they had both pled guilty to the violent and heartless robbery of a very vulnerable and significantly disabled man.

The court heard Mr Toal had suffered a severe brain injury after he was hit by a lorry as a seven-year-old boy.

He is severely disabled and cannot walk without a Zimmer frame, but lives alone at his home in Prestonpans and gets a high level of support from carers.

Advocate depute Jim Keegan said he had been classified as lonely and vulnerable.

The prosecutor said: "He has told his carers that he would like to have a relationship with a female, but due to his disabilities he has been unable to find a partner.

"His carers have opined that as a result of this he is particularly susceptible to being taken advantage of. He is prone to giving money to individuals in an attempt to gain friendship."

The prosecutor said Mr Toal was also in the habit of saving his money and keeping substantial sums at home.

Mr Keegan said: "He has explained that he does this in the hope of getting married one day."

Police unable to intervene

The prosecutor said Mr Toal's carers had in the past raised concerns about his vulnerability to financial abuse and had reported it to police.

In May this year a care worker contacted police to report her concerns he was getting visits from Ryan and her sister Tracy, both of whom were taking money from him. The police did not feel they could intervene at the time, said Mr Keegan.

He said on 18 August, three days before the robbery - a carer again reported to police concerns that Ryan and her sister were taking money from him and informed that Mr Toal had revealed Ryan had kissed him. The advocate depute said: "The police did not feel able to intervene."

In the early hours of 21 August Mr Toal heard a tap on the window at his home - a sign used by Ryan to indicate that she would be at the door.

Mr Keegan said: "When he opened the door, two persons burst into his house. They were wearing balaclavas that covered their faces. They grabbed hold of him. They placed a noose around his neck and pulled it tight.

"While this was happening a male voice said 'We're going to kill you' and 'Make sure you make it really tight'," said the advocate depute.

Mr Keegan said: "The victim believed he was going to be murdered and found it hard to breathe. He believes was rendered unconscious to a time."

Defence counsel Matt Jackson, for Ryan, said: "It is a crime which properly can be called a horrible and brutish crime."

He said Ryan had been a drug user since the age of 19 but 18 months ago "as a matter of choice" started using crack cocaine.

Mr Jackson said her use of that drug may offer some explanation for what happened, but was not an excuse.

Drew McKenzie, for Kirkby, said his client had a long-standing addiction to heroin and added: "He is pretty appalled by his behaviour."

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