Woman who burgled neighbour, 72, to feed coke habit spared jail

A woman who burgled a vulnerable 72-year-old neighbour to feed her cocaine habit was spared jail.

Rebecca Kotas befriended a widow, but soon started asking her for money, which the pensioner gave her.

The 28-year-old repaid this kindness by distracting the OAP, sneaking into her flat and stealing her handbag.

It contained sentimental jewellery, a purse, cash and a bank card, which Kotas quickly spent nearly £70 on.

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The victim was left "immeasurably upset", scared to even hang out her washing, and now wants to move home.

But Kotas walked free from Liverpool Crown Court today after a judge heard she herself was "highly vulnerable".

Prosecutors said Kotas struck at the block of flats in Banbury Avenue, Halewood on the afternoon of January 12 this year.

Rebecca Smith, prosecuting, said she knocked on the victim's door, who reluctantly answered, because it was Kotas.

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Kotas said the OAP's rear window had been damaged and persuaded her to look at tomato sauce thrown on the glass.

While the victim inspected the window with another neighbour, Kotas crept into her home and took a green khaki handbag.

The victim went to look for her bag the following day, but couldn't find it, so spoke to her neighbours about Kotas.

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She searched a neighbour's bin, where she found a carrier bag containing some of her items, and contacted the police.

Officers came to see her three days later, when the OAP told them about a text message from her bank about five transactions on January 12.

That led police to Merrivale News in Merrivale Road, Walton, where CCTV showed Kotas spending £67.39.

Officers went to speak to Kotas and searched her home, where they recovered the handbag and the jewellery.

The victim had lived at her home for around 12 months and moved there to be closer to family after her husband's death.

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In a statement, she told the court she believed Kotas "tricked" her and planned the burglary.

Rebecca Kotas walked free from court

Ms Smith said her client was left "terrified" of simple tasks such as pegging out her washing and described how miserable she felt without jewellery given to her by her daughter and late sister.

She said the OAP didn't feel safe and was now speaking to her housing provider about getting a new home.

The woman said she didn't believe Kotas was sorry and added: "She is aware of where I live. Knowing this causes me to feel upset and scared."

Kotas denied entering the woman's home in an interview, then when shown the CCTV accepted using her card, but didn't explain why she had it.

The thief, now of Cherry Sutton, Widnes, admitted burglary and six counts of fraud.

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She has three previous convictions for five offences, including common assault and two counts of theft from a person.

The court heard Kotas was last sentenced in 2013 for another offence involving violence.

Paul Wood, defending, said the pensioner's loss was fortunately lessened by the fact the stolen items were recovered.

He said: "It's clear this lady was vulnerable. It was a very mean act, against acts of previous kindness from her."

Mr Wood added: "The defendant accepts clearly she was under the influence of drugs. If ever there needed to be an example of how negatively drugs can affect an individual, this is clearly a classic case."

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He conceded Kotas had been a "nuisance" to the woman, but had since tackled her addiction, had been "clean" for six weeks, and was working with the Change Grow Live charity.

Mr Wood said a report detailed issues in Kotas' childhood, how she first started using drugs, which was "normal in the family environment she was in", and that she made a complaint four years ago of being the victim of "a very serious offence".

He said she had a history of anxiety and depression, was prescribed medication, and was "someone who is highly vulnerable".

Mr Wood added: "She attends court today with one of her arms bandaged from self-harm."

The lawyer suggested there were "two victims" – the OAP and Kotas – and said his client, who would lose her own home, had since stayed out of trouble and was supported in court by her boyfriend.

Rebecca Kotas walked free from court

He also urged Judge Gary Woodhall to bear in mind the impact prison would have on Kotas' mental health.

Judge Woodhall said the victim described her "immeasurable upset" at losing the jewellery, being left scared and wanting to move out, which he said was a perfectly understandable response to having your home "violated".

He said Kotas was clearly under the influence of cocaine and motivated by funding her drug habit.

The judge said: "You knew her age and her vulnerabilities and you targeted her."

However, he accepted Kotas was genuinely remorseful, was in significant rent arrears and would likely lose her own flat.

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He said Kotas could be "categorised properly as a vulnerable adult", had not offended since and was trying to address her problems.

The judge said he bore in mind her personal circumstances and it was in the best interests of the public that she be rehabilitated.

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Judge Woodhall handed Kotas 10 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, with a 25-day Rehabilitation Activity Requirement.

He told her to complete a six-month Drug Rehabilitation Requirement and a four-month home curfew, from 8pm to 6am daily.

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