Serial offender sentenced following attack on pensioner

A repeat offender who launched a terrifying attack on a 90-year-old man in his own home after he was freed early from prison was jailed for four and a half years
A repeat offender who launched a terrifying attack on a 90-year-old man in his own home after he was freed early from prison was jailed for four and a half years

a SERIAL offender who was released from prison early attacked a 90-year-old man in his own home.

The pensioner was asleep when John Gallagher, 37, broke into the property on the city’s southside and assaulted him before making off with £200 and a handful of personal belongings.

The crook, who already has 90 other offences to his name, was jailed yesterday for four-and-a-half years following the attack.

After hearing the pensioner’s cries for help, a neighbour ran to his aid and found him shaking and covered in blood.

Gallagher, who was on early release from a four-year jail sentence for a serious assault with scissors, left spots of his own blood at the scene of the break-in and a DNA match for him was found.

Among the personal belongings that were stolen was the pensioner’s family heirloom gold cufflinks, tie pin and wedding ring, a bank card and prescribed medication.

A judge told Gallagher at the High Court in Edinburgh said: “At the age of 37 you have an extraordinary offending history with some 90 previous convictions.”

Lady Scott pointed out that although he had 16 offences of housebreaking on his record, it also included convictions for violence, among them assault and robbery and assault to severe injury, permanent impairment and disfigurement.

She said: “Your conduct must have been terrifying for your elderly victim and it has left him anxious and distressed.”

Unemployed Gallagher, who is now in prison at Saughton, earlier admitted assaulting and robbing the pensioner, on October 26 last year after forcing entry to his home.

The court heard that the victim had gone to bed in a quiet cul-de-sac after securing windows and doors. But about 15 minutes later he woke up after the intruder demanded his money and assaulted him.

The victim was taken to Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and found to have bruising but no evidence was discovered of further head injury.

After the DNA match identified Gallagher as the perpetrator, he was detained by police in January this year and taken to St Leonard’s police station and interviewed but made no comment to every question.

Defence solicitor advocate Brian Gilfedder said Gallagher, a prisoner in Saughton, had “genuinely thought the house was empty”.

He said: “He had no idea that there was an elderly person in the house.

“He is obviously ashamed of what he did.”

MSP Miles Briggs said he would ask the Justice Secretary to ask why Gallagher was released early.

He said: “This is a deeply alarming and upsetting case.

“I will be raising this in writing with the Justice Secretary to ask for an investigation of the reasons behind Mr Gallagher’s early release. The public will be understandably concerned and will want urgent reassurances that lessons will be learned from this case.”

courtney.cameron@jpress.co.uk