Mugged Highgate gran, 91, determined to move on after attack

A 91-year-old Highgate grandmother who was mugged for just �20 has spoken of her relief that her attacker has been caught.

Lynne Elmer-Laird, a member of the Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, had to undergo an emergency operation to remove a blood clot from her brain following the attack on August 14.

Eric Banton, 49, of Northumberland Park, Tottenham, pleaded guilty to robbing the Second World War Army nurse on Friday at Wood Green Crown Court.

Mrs Elmer-Laird had been shopping in nearby Archway Road when Banton grabbed her handbag. The pensioner fell to the ground and smashed her head on the pavement during the robbery.

Despite the horrific assault, which left her with a broken arm, severe bruising and swelling of the face, the brave grandmother is now back at home recovering and more determined than ever to get on with her life.

Surrounded by dozens of cards from wellwishers, Mrs Elmer-Laird spoke of her terrifying ordeal.

“I didn’t realise I was being followed,” said the pensioner, who walks with a cane. “I felt a tug on my arm and realised he had his hand in my bag.

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“Without thinking I tried to pull it back and yelled, ‘What are you doing? What are you doing?’ I was then shoved to the floor, hit the pavement and landed on my face.”

Luckily, a neighbour spotted Mrs Elmer-Laird lying on the ground and quickly raised the alarm.

She was taken to hospital where she spent a total of 10 days, at one point being readmitted to under go major surgery.

Mrs Elmer-Laird, who moved to Highgate seven years ago to be closer to her family, now hopes she can move on.

“I can’t let it get me down”, she said defiantly. “You have to move on and live your life. I’m getting there.

“I’m still feeling angry. I’ve never heard of anyone being mugged in the area.

“People who knew me were horrified by what happened. ‘How dare he push Lynne?’ I am just glad he was caught. I admire the police enormously.”

Strong-willed Mrs Elmer-Laird was born and brought up in Stoke-on-Trent where she trained to be a nurse.

In 1944 she joined the Army and served in various parts of the world including India and Malaya.

“I tried three times to join the Army but I kept being told I looked too young,” she explained.

“Eventually I was accepted and I was allocated to the very prestigious Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service, which I was very proud of. It was the force to be in.”

In 1947 Mrs Elmer-Laird came home after contracting tuberculosis and spent 18 months in hospital.

After recovering from her illness, she met John Elmer, a soldier and artist, and the couple married in 1953.

Mrs Elmer-Laird, who has one son, Charles, is immensely proud of her family.

Dotted around her home are photos of her grandchildren, Channing School pupil Lucy, 16, and Helen, 20, who is in her final year at Oxford University.

“My family have been so good looking after me since the attack,” she said. “I have been told I am not allowed out, though, on my own. “I’ve been very touched by people who have been interested in what happened and shown support.

“I’ve lived in Highgate for seven years. This is my home, and I still love it.

“I just want to thank all the people who have been so kind. I very much appreciate all the kind words.”

Eric Banton is due to be sentenced at Wood Green Crown Court on October 5.

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