Oct 05, 2023

Intruders jailed for angle grinder horror attack

A PAIR of violent intruders have been jailed for breaking into an elderly couple's home and using an angle grinder to demand money from them.

Daniel Leitch and Tina Westcott burst into the caravan at 3am when the man and woman were both asleep and then attacked him with a piece of wood which he picked up to defend himself.

They believed the couple had at least £1,000 cash and Westcott picked up, plugged in an angle grinder before handing it to Leitch, who held it at the terrified male victim's head.

He suffered a cut hand as he tried to fend off the grinder, which was operating at full speed but was left traumatised by seeing its blade held just centimetres from his neck.

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Leitch humiliated the woman victim by forcing her to take off her top so he could look at her breasts.

The robbers stole his partner's phone, bank card and £200 cash from her bag before ordering them to drive to a cashpoint to get out more money. The woman ran off into woods and took refuge at a nearby home.

Leitch then used the piece of wood to batter the man as he lay helpless on the ground outside the caravan, leaving him with a gash in his head and defence injuries to his hands which left him unable to work.

He was left lying bleeding on the ground while Leitch and Westcott fled the scene of the attack on Northam, North Devon. She was found with a knife in her bag and the victim's card and phone when they were arrested nearby a couple of hours later.

The attack arose out of mistaken identity. The victims were in their 60s and working as a carpenter and a cleaner.

Leitch, aged 31, formerly of Bideford but now homeless, admitted wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, theft, criminal damage, causing a woman to engage in unwanted sexual activity, assaulting police and possession of cannabis.

He was jailed for seven years and two months with a two year extended licence and certified as a dangerous offender by Recorder Mr Richard Stead at Exeter Crown Court.

Westcott, aged 31, of Joy Street, Barnstaple, admitted wounding, theft and possession of a knife and was jailed for two years and three months.

The judge told them: 'This appalling attack was on two people who are both over 60 and working hard. It has impacted on them in an enormous manner. They thought they were going to die.'

Mr Herc Ashworth, prosecuting, said the attack on the caravan happened at 3 am on October 5 last year when the couple were asleep in bed. Leitch kicked in the door and used a stick which the man had picked up to batter him.

Leitch said he had been watching the caravan for three months and had been sent to kill him and demanded £1,000 which he said was kept there. The victim stored some tools at the caravan and Westcott picked up and switched on an angle grinder which she handed to Leitch.

He held it to the man's neck and he suffered a cut finger from the blade as he tried to defend himself. Leitch ordered the woman to lift and then take off her top before demanding they go to a cashpoint.

She managed to ran off and her partner tried to fight back but suffered a brutal attack by Leitch which left him bleeding and with severe bruising to his head, back, shoulders, arms and hands.

The woman wrote a victim impact statement which said: 'My life was blown apart that morning. I need someone around me all the time now. Their actions have devastated us.

'I will never forget the horror of seeing someone I love being smashed about the head and having an angle grinder turned on him.'

Mr Nick Lewin, for Leitch, said he had not brought any weapons to the scene himself and carried out the attack when he was drunk. He is now sorry for what he did and plans to address his alcohol problem while in jail.

Mr Jason Beal, for Westcott, said she has no similar previous convictions, had been led by Leitch on the night, and had not anticipated the extent of his violence. She was a crack cocaine addict at the time but has got clean while in prison on remand.

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