A “RUTHLESS” burglar who stole cash from a vulnerable elderly Salisbury woman after she let him into her home has been jailed.

Terrance McDonagh, 25, talked his way into 81-year-old Lydia Willis’s house in Bouverie Avenue South on November 18.

Mrs Willis, who lives alone, had declined his offer to clear leaves from her garden, but let him use the toilet.

Once inside, he tricked her into letting him use the upstairs lavatory before sending her downstairs to fetch more toilet paper and make him a cup of tea.

Left alone, he stole an envelope containing £290 in cash from a handbag in her bedroom.

He then made his excuses and left, taking care not to leave fingerprints on the door handle.

Mrs Willis had installed CCTV after rogue traders targeted her house earlier that summer and the footage identified McDonagh as the culprit.

He suffered from mental health issues, the court heard, including a personality disorder. But despite initial concerns, he was deemed fit to plead and admitted the charges.

Defending, Tim Akers said: “There’s no way of getting around it, it’s an incredibly unpleasant offence.

“He admits he took the money due to selfishness and stupidity. He deeply regrets taking the money and states that he deserves to be punished.”

McDonagh had worked as a labourer and a car salesman and “clearly has mental difficulties”, Mr Akers said.

Sentencing him to two years and eight months for burglary at Salisbury Crown court on Thursday, Judge Richard Parkes said: “You targeted her ruthlessly and exploited her kindness and generosity.

“Her trust in other people has been gravely damaged. She let you in because you seemed a likeable sort of person with what she called a ‘smiley face’ and her trust was sadly abused.”

McDonagh, of Burden Drive, Bishopdown, has 11 previous convictions for 26 offences.

He was also sentenced for a series of motoring offences and received a total of 40 months in prison.

...and led the police on drunk car chase in city

CRIMINAL McDonagh has also been jailed for drink-driving two months before he stole from Mrs Willis (see above).

The 25-year-old from Bishopdown ran red lights, mounted the pavement and went the wrong way round a roundabout as he tried to escape.

He was sentenced to 8 months for dangerous driving at Salisbury Crown Court on Thursday.

It started when Terrance McDonagh was seen drinking beer in his van outside Pizza Hut in Blue Boar Row, in the early hours of September 11.

When police approached he drove off at speed, mounting the pavement in a bid to evade police.

When police caught up with him he was driving back towards Salisbury on London Road. They chased him with sirens as he continued to race through the city at speeds of more than 50mph in a 30mph zone.

He drove on pavements, ran a red light in Milford Street, and went the wrong way round a roundabout.

In the car park of Tesco in Southampton Road he turned and drove straight towards officers.

When he was eventually stopped in St Martin’s Church Street and got out of the van he claimed he had not been driving. Police said he was heavily intoxicated.

Defending, Tim Akers said McDonagh had not intended to go joy riding but made an “incredibly foolish decision” when he feared he would be in trouble for drink-driving.

Sentencing him for dangerous driving, failing to stop, driving without insurance or a licence, and failing to provide a breath specimen for analysis, Judge Richard Parkes said: “Your driving on September 11 was extremely dangerous and could well have involved serious injury to pedestrian or indeed police officers.”

He will also be banned from driving for three years after his release.

Toilet window escape bid fail

MCDONAGH was also sentenced to two weeks in prison for escaping from officers who tried to arrest him at his home on suspicion of criminal damage on October 21.

The court heard he had been “extremely drunk” after buying 10 cans of cider and asked to go to the toilet before being taken on the 50-minute drive to the nearest cells in Melksham.

An officer went outside to make sure he did not escape through the lavatory window, but found it already wide open and McDonagh 50 metres away and “running strongly”, the court heard.

When officers later caught him he told them he was “in touch with spirits and continuously talked about ghosts.”

McDonagh pleaded guilty to a charge of obstruction.