A horrified burglary victim told yesterday how she carried on her daily routine and even went to bed unaware a thief had been hiding in the wardrobe – for 13 hours.
Terrified Rosalinde Potter, 53, came home at 2.40pm on September 25 and unknowingly disturbed Aaron Bradford, who had burgled her three times before.
As first revealed in Monday’s Herald, Bradford, 18, had grabbed an 18-inch poker from her fireplace and jumped into a wardrobe in her spare room where he remained hidden while police searched the house.
Rosalinde didn’t realise Bradford was hiding and called police who arrived to investigate the break-in at 6pm.
Speaking yesterday she said officers spent two hours at her home, taking fingerprints and other evidence.
They even went into her spare room – unaware Bradford was crouched inside the wardrobe.
Bradford continued sitting still and quiet in the cupboard until 4am – when he crept out while the family slept and grabbed a camera, a Toshiba laptop and cash.
He was caught moments later by police who found the laptop in his rucksack.
Later he was identified from CCTV set up inside the home.
Bradford, of Octagon Street, Plymouth, admitted burgling the same house on three other occasions along with a string of other offences.
He was sentenced to five years in a young offenders’ institution, less 57 days spent on remand.
After the sentencing, Rosalinde, 53, revealed how she was Bradford’s foster carer for three years between 2007 and 2009.
He returned to his family soon after she got divorced but then quickly returned to care.
She said: “I did have contact with him.We had quite a good relationship.
“I’m by myself with a 16-year-old lad who I foster.
“It’s very disturbing to think that someone I knew might actually want to hit me with a poker.
“It took me three weeks before I could even sleep at night – just thinking someone could be in the house.”
Rosalinde said that, after she had disturbed Bradford and called the police, she started to receive a torrent of calls from 0800 Reverse to both her mobile and landline.
She said: “He made about 25 calls in total. He had me going from one phone to another.
“Whether he was trying to scare me out of the house I don’t know. There were so many that I tried to call BT to get them to stop the calls.”
She said Bradford had gone to hide amongst shirts in the wardrobe in his former bedroom which is now a spare room.
Rosalinde, who runs a leafleting business, said:“There’s a shelf inside and I assume he was sitting there like a gnome holding a fishing rod.
“He’s slim but 6ft tall so I think that’s the only way he could have done it.
“We were all in the room while he was there – me, a police officer taking fingerprints, my partner. He was within arms reach of all of us.”
David Gittins, prosecuting, said: ‘‘The householder returned home to find the patio doors forced and items moved within the house. She reported the break-in to police.
“He hid in the wardrobe for 13 hours till 4am, then stole a camera, a laptop and a small amount of cash.’‘
During an earlier break-in at Rosalinde’s home, the court heard how Bradford stole electrical items and jewellery valued at £20,000 – forcing the desperate victim to install security cameras.
Mr Gittins said CCTV of the latest break-in showed hooded Bradford entering and leaving the house.
He was arrested as he walked along the A386 between Yelverton and Horrabridge with the stolen laptop in his bag.
Bradford also admitted using a bank card stolen from a woman’s handbag to draw cash from her bank account.
He also stole a man’s bank details and used them to act as a guarantor for a loan, securing £466 to pay for 45 mobile phone top-ups.
On June 10 he was involved in a robbery in which “a girl was used as decoy or bait”.
She contacted a man she had been friendly with at school and said she would like to see him. He paid for her taxi to his flat, but she brought with her a group of armed, masked, hooded men – one of them Bradford.
They burst into the flat with knives and baseball bats and robbed the man of cash, his Apple laptop and his mobile phone.
Jason Beal, for Bradford, said his client showed “contrition and remorse” and had made ‘‘full and frank‘’ admissions. He said: “This is terribly sad. He has been in care as a child, been fostered by people who were kind to him and now shows contrition and remorse. His ambition is to join the army.”
Judge Graham Cottle told Bradford: “It is unclear what underpinned this sudden spate of serious offending.”