A teenage rugby player who put a cushion over the face of his 92-year-old great grandmother after she refused to lend him £80 has been given a five year jail term - with a further five-year extended licence.
A judge today (Friday) branded powerfully-built 17-year-old Dion Groombridge a danger to the public and said it was a matter of luck that his relative hadn’t died as a result of the attack at her flat in Elland, West Yorkshire.
Groombridge, who was still only 16 when he committed the offence in July, told police later that “he just couldn’t do it” and claimed his head just went.
Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC told Groombridge that a person could only survive for a few minutes without oxygen and he had admitted holding the cushion over his great grandmother’s face for a period of time.
Groombridge told a friend he was going to his great grandmother’s to borrow some money and he would to give him some as “board”, but prosecutor Ken Green said the pensioner refused to hand over any cash.
Groombridge left the flat in an agitated state, but a few minutes later the victim’s granddaughter turned up and found her relative slumped across the sofa gasping for breath.
She was taken by ambulance to hospital and her grand-daughter realised that cash was missing from a purse and a handbag.
Mr Green said the victim’s recollection was vague about the actual incident, but in hospital she told her grand-daughter that Groombridge had “throttled her”.
Groombridge, who previously lived in Whinney Hill Park, Brighouse, was arrested and told officers that he had a cushion over his great grandmother’s face.
“He said he ‘just walked out cos I couldn’t do it’,” said Mr Green.
Groombridge said he didn’t know what he intended and described his head as “just going”.
“He accepted that his great grandmother was frail and said he was shocked at what he had done,” added Mr Green.
“He accepted, and realised, that if he had kept the pillow over her face any longer then he might have killed her.”
Bradford Crown Court heard that since the incident the complainant, who had previously lived independently, had suffered a number of falls and was not well enough to return to her flat.
Groombridge admitted the rarely used offence of attempting to choke, suffocate or strangle with intent to steal £80 from his relative as well a charge of stealing a similar sum from a friend who had been putting him up about a fortnight earlier.
The court heard that Groombridge had no previous convictions and his school record was described as “impeccable”.
His barrister Stephen Wood said his submissions were not intended to dilute the enormity of the offence his client had committed but he stressed that the teenager had not been charged with intending to cause serious harm to the complainant.
“His intention as he pleaded to, and as was framed by the Crown, was one of dishonesty and that is the limit of it,” emphasised Mr Wood.
Mr Wood said it was perhaps understandable that someone of Groombridge’s age was struggling to come to terms with why he did it but he added: “He’s very sorry for the pain and the anguish he has caused in this case.”
Judge Durham Hall sentenced Groombridge to five years’ detention but he will also be subject to an extended five-year licence period on release.
“I wholly understand that this represents a tragedy for not only you, and much of the spotlight has been focused upon you, but it represents a tragedy for the true victim and victims of this offence your great grandmother, her children, her granddaughter and other members of her family who you have so badly let down,” the judge told Groombridge.
The judge described the offence as “truly chilling” and added that the teenager had been “going off the rails” at the time.
Judge Durham Hall said if Groombridge had been an adult he would have had no hesitation in passing a life sentence on him.
“This was a gross breach of trust,” said the judge.
“The degree of force you used and the type of force that you used are deeply troubling.
“You know your power and you are a fit young man. This was in that lady’s own home...her refuge.
“She was on her own and could have been on her own for some time. The consequences of this act are incalculable.”
The judge said it was a matter of luck that he had not killed his relative and if he had he would have been facing a charge of murder.