April 20 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, October 25, 2012
A courageous 91-year-old grandmother says she will forgive the crack addict who viciously mugged her for £20 after he was jailed for 11 years.
Prolific robber Eric Banton, 49, should have been at a probation meeting when he mugged Lynne Elmer-Laird near her home in Highgate – causing such horrific injuries she had to undergo an emergency operation to remove a blood clot.
A day earlier the father-of-three, who has 39 previous convictions, had been given a suspended sentence for shoplifting and celebrated with a crack cocaine binge.
Determined to move on from the attack, Mrs Elmer-Laird, a member of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, took to the stand at Wood Green Crown Court on Friday (October 19) where she confronted 6ft 2in Banton.
Proud son Charles sat in the public gallery as the mugger wept while a list of the grandmother’s injuries were read to the court.
The 91-year-old told the court: “My face was black, blue and yellow. I still have injuries which are taking time to heal. My face was such a mess. I couldn’t face going out to see anybody.
“I do go out now with care but I don’t go very far. I’m getting my confidence back and I’m determined to get on with things.”
The court heard how, on August 14, Banton – while still “high as a kite” – followed Mrs Elmer-Laird, who had popped out to the shops.
The army nurse, who survived the Second World War and served in the South Pacific, was walking along Church Road, Highgate, when she felt Banton pulling at her bag.
She tried to pull away but fell to the ground, hitting her head on the pavement.
Mrs Elmer-Laird suffered severe swelling to her face and a fractured hand as well as a blood clot on her brain.
“I was so angry with him for leaving me there,” she said. “I still have the scars on my head. It still hurts but it is healing.”
Keith Stones, defending, said jobless Banton had hit “rock bottom” and passed an apology note to the judge on behalf of his client which Mrs Elmer-Laird graciously thanked him for.
“He has a deep sense of shame, and has now realised, when sober, what he has done,” Mr Stones said.
Despite this the defence solicitor said there was “no mitigation for this ghastly offence”.
Sentencing Banton, Judge James Patrick, branded him a danger to the public.
He said: “When he is intoxicated, he loses, as is self-evident, all touch of decency and propriety.
“What you did to her must have devastated not only her, but also her family and friends.
“Even your defence lawyer says there is no mitigation for this ghastly offence. You have shown you are unable to live in society. It is necessary to protect the public from you.”
Speaking after the case Mrs Elmer-Laird said she was happy with the sentence and told the Ham&High she had to forgive Banton because she is a Christian.
“I just feel very sorry for him,” she said. “He has a wife and three children. I don’t know if he will learn anything from it. I’ve never met anyone like him before.
“I just think it is so sad. He is not getting on with his life. Life is so important and precious. I have a wonderful family and beautiful grandchildren. I just feel sorry for him.
“Even if he is off the streets for at least six years it is better than nothing. I don’t want to know him and I don’t want him to know me.
“Pick yourself up, dust yourself down and start all over again. That is my philosophy in life.”
Asked if she would consider moving away from Highgate, she said: “No. Highgate is my home. Charles is in the next road. I am looking forward to being 100. I’m staying put.”
Banton, of Northumberland, Park, Tottenham, pleaded guilty to one count of robbery and must serve at least half his sentence behind bars.