A Slovakian criminal who launched a brutal knuckle-duster attack on a jeweller in Halifax has been given an 18-year extended prison sentence.
A shocking photograph of 89-year-old Colin Butlin’s bloodied face was published by the Halifax Courier back in November 2014 in attempt to track down his attacker and today 42-year-old Viktor Lakatos was finally jailed following a complex police inquiry.
But a judge heard that the hard-working pensioner, who travelled daily to his jewellery store in Keighley, had died a few days after his 90th birthday last summer.
Bradford Crown Court heard that married father-of-two Lakatos, who had served a six-year jail term in Slovakia for grievous bodily harm before coming to this country four years ago, was desperate for money after problems with his benefits.
Mr Butlin, who had previously suffered two strokes and walked with a stick, regularly used a taxi to get back to his Greetland home near Halifax, but prosecutor Chris Smith said on the evening of the attack he was followed from Keighley by Lakatos.
The victim was carrying a small holdall containing a few items of jewellery for repair, but it was thought that he may have had “lots of money” on him.
“As he was unlocking his door to his kitchen he was attacked from behind,” said Mr Smith.
“He was later to describe to the police how he had felt blows raining down upon him.
“He was, of course, defenceless. Knocked to the ground his bag of personal items was stolen. The robber ran away.”
Mr Butlin suffered wounds to his forehead which had to be stitched as well as extensive bruising and a fractured nose.
A silver knuckle-duster left at the scene had a DNA profile on it which was later matched to Lakatos with the help of inquiries through Interpol.
In March last year an appeal for information about Lakatos was made on the BBC’s Crimewatch programme and police eventually received an anonymous tip-off which led to them finding him hiding under a bed at an address in Keighley.
Lakatos had been due to stand trial, but yesterday he pleaded guilty to the robbery charge although he claimed he had only been acting as the getaway driver.
After hearing evidence from Lakatos Judge Jonathan Durham Hall QC branded his version of events as incredible.
In a victim impact statement Mr Butlin’s daughter Linda said his hope and positivity in life had turned to despair and doubt following the attack.
She said he had experienced robberies at his shop before but never thought it would follow him to his own home where he should have been safe.
She said her dad “lost his sparkle” following the attack and all the family had become victims.
Jailing Lakatos for 14-years with a four-year extended licence period Judge Durham Hall said he had turned to the most exceptional criminality when his benefits had been curtailed.
“As robberies go it is within the category that may be described as the worst examples of its kind,” the judge told Lakatos via a Slovakian interpreter.
“For you targeted, attacked at his front door, gratuitously and excessively beat with a knuckle-duster an 89-year-old gentleman.
“Not just cruel, not just wicked, not just gratuitous and uncivilised, certainly by our standards, it was cowardly in the extreme. It was barbaric.”
The judge’s 18-year extended sentence provoked angry scenes in the public gallery and family and friends of Lakatos had to be removed from the court by security staff.
At the end of the hearing Judge Durham Hall commended the police work which had led to Lakatos’ arrest and he also praised the role of Interpol and the Crimewatch programme.
Speaking after the case, Detective Sergeant Ross Wadsworth of Calderdale CID said; “This was a particularly appalling attack against a vulnerable, hardworking gentleman on his own doorstep, and I hope that the significant sentence passed today will be of some comfort to the victim’s family.
“Lakatos clearly thought that he could evade the police following the offence, and did not expect that he would be caught for this heinous crime. Today’s result demonstrates that we will do all we can to arrest and prosecute people who commit offences against the most vulnerable members of our communities and seek to bring offenders to justice.”