A pensioner lost a treasured photograph of her late husband when she was robbed of her purse at knifepoint in an alleyway as she walked home with her shopping.
And by the time robber Ian Hutchins was arrested he had got rid of the purse, which had also contained pictures of his victim’s children and grandchildren.
Hutchins, 55, of Pendred Road, Rugby, pleaded guilty at Warwick Crown Court to charges of robbery and possessing a bladed article in a public place.
The court heard that Hutchins, who has been detained at the Caludon Centre psychiatric unit in Coventry since his arrest, ‘poses an active and immediate threat’ to the public.
So Judge Alan Parker imposed a hospital order for him to be detained in a secure psychiatric unit under the Mental Health Act.
And after hearing from a psychiatrist who had prepared a report on Hutchins, he also made a restriction order which means Hutchins cannot be released without the approval of a mental health tribunal.
Prosecutor Alistair Redford said that in June last year a 78-year-old widow left the Morrisons store in Rugby and was on her way home pushing her shopping trolley.
In the top of the trolley, covered by a flap, was her purse in which, as well as cash, bank cards and her house key, she had a treasured picture of her late husband and pictures of her children and grandchildren.
As she walked down an alleyway off Bridget Road she was approached by Hutchins who pulled out a Stanley-type knife and threatened her: “Give me your money or I’ll stab you.”
She said she had no money, but he lifted the flap on her trolley and took the purse before walking away.
Judge Alan Parker commented: “If he had not found the purse there is a very real risk he would have used the knife.”
The woman made her way home from where she called the police and gave a description of the robber.
Hutchins was arrested later when police officers who had seen him at a bus stop realised he matched the description.
He still had the pensioner’s key on him, but had got rid of her purse, which was never recovered, said Mr Redford.
There was a delay before Hutchins was charged because of concerns over his mental condition, and when he was later questioned he said he had been drinking and needed the money.
Mr Redford added that at the time Hutchins was on bail over an allegation of wounding with intent, although in the end that was not proceeded with and he was given a caution for an associated matter of witness intimidation.
Colin Charvill, defending, said there were two psychiatric reports on Hutchins which recommended that he be made subject to a hospital order.
And the court heard that one of the psychiatrists had concluded that Hutchins ‘poses quite an active and immediate threat to vulnerable people.’
That was said to be because of ‘an organic mental disorder,’ which was currently under control with medication but which was exacerbated by his use of alcohol.
Judge Parker told Hutchins: “I have little doubt you knew she had her purse under the cover of her shopping trolley. It seems to me you targeted her.
“What is concerning is that you must already have been armed with that weapon which, if used, could have caused the most savage of injuries.
“Fortunately you did know the purse was under the cover, and so produced the knife merely to facilitate you taking the purse. If that had not been the position, I dread to think what would have happened to her.
“I am satisfied it is better for the public if I make you subject to a hospital order. You will be in a secure hospital for far longer than you would have been in prison.
“It is intended that you receive the help you need and the public will be protected from the risk you manifest.”