A PREDATORY burglar who targeted a vulnerable man, the week after his mother died, and forced his way into his home before stealing cash has been jailed.

Alexander Wright stole almost £100 from the victim after forcing him to hand over money from a tin before rifling through his wallet and taking the cash out of it.

Teesside Crown Court heard how he had a long history of targeting vulnerable people by offering to carry out gardening work and on occasion impersonating a police officer.

Recorder Simon Jackson QC jailed Wright for three years and nine months for the burglary of the victim, who has been diagnosed with Down's Syndrome.

"I'm quite satisfied you targeted this house as a result of previous visits to see his mother," he said. "On this last visit visit, on the day of the offence, you discovered his mother had passed away and you knocked at the door.

"When he opened the door, you pushed passed him, as the jury found as a trespasser, you immediately found he was alone and you knew he had severe learning difficulties. You went upstairs and forced him, this vulnerable man, to hand over money from the tin from upstairs, you then went downstairs taking the contents of his wallet and then fled."

Businessiq: Alexander WrightAlexander Wright

He added: "He told the jury he didn't want any gardening done and the reality is that you tricked him and you did this knowing that he was still sad from the very recent death of his mother.

"You took the chance, in the absence of his care, to steal from his a burglar.

"I'm satisfied that you are a predator on the vulnerable. These premises were deliberately targeted."

Paul Reid, prosecuting, said Wright pushed his way into the victim's home on Brinkburn Avenue, Darlington, in October 2019 – a week after his mother died.

When he was arrested the defendant gave police a prepared statement maintaining he had been in the house to carry out legitimate gardening work and had only gone upstairs after cutting his hand, Mr Reid added.

Wright, of Witton Crescent, Darlington, was found guilty of burglary after a trial last month.

During the trial, jurors were told that Wright had been to the victim's home on a number of occasions to offer to carry out gardening work.

Ian West, in mitigation, accepted his client was facing a minimum mandatory sentence for burglary due to his previous offences.

He had urged the judge to keep the sentence as short as possible as this was Wright's first conviction in five years for a similar offence.

Dealing with the defendant's previous convictions, Recorder Jackson said: "It is quite clear you have targeted vulnerable people, people over the age of 70 under the guise of offering gardening services and that is part of your modus operandi."

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