Burglar who sprayed acid at woman causing her severe burns convicted of series of offences

24/07/2017

A burglar who sprayed acid at a woman causing her serious burns has been convicted of a series of offences, also involving liquid sprayed from a bottle.

Gerard Whelan, 45, admitted grievous bodily harm with intent after squeezing acid from a white bottle onto the 69-year-old woman during a night-time burglary in Ilford on 13 December 2016. 

She suffered burns to 24% of her body and had to undergo skin grafts and surgeries, with permanent scars to her arms, legs, body and face. The acid was found to be of the same strength as sulphuric acid.

Whelan, of Penfold Place, Paddington, also admitted aggravated burglary at the same hearing, which took place on 14 July at Wood Green Crown Court. 

He will be sentenced on 22 September at Wood Green Crown Court for these and a number of other offences carried out on two other days in December, several of which also involved squeezing liquid from a bottle onto victim's faces or bodies.

CPS reviewing lawyer Lily Saw said: "Whelan's use of acid in this burglary shows him to be an extremely dangerous individual.

"His victim was hospitalised for eight weeks in extreme pain. She had to undergo numerous operations, skin grafts and has been left severely scarred for the rest of her life and suffering emotional trauma. Despite this she was able to support the prosecution and pick Whelan out in an identity parade.

"The strength of the acid destroyed the flooring, carpets, a sofa and a door in her home.

"Whelan must now face the consequences of his devastating actions."

Convictions:

13 Dec - Aggravated burglary, section 18 GBH
12 Dec - Aggravated burglary, assault with intent to rob, robbery, assault with intent to rob, robbery
25 Dec - Assault with intent to rob, assault with intent to rob, having an offensive weapon, assault with intent to rob, assault by beating.

In the incident on 13 December, Whelan had broken into his victim's home in Westwood Road, Ilford, as she slept. When she woke up he was holding a screwdriver over her as she lay in her bed saying: "If you don't be quiet I will kill you." He took a bangle and rings from her hand and arm and made her sit downstairs while he searched kitchen cupboards.

When she tried to escape he stopped her and squeezed a substance onto her from a white bottle causing her serious injuries. He also broke her little finger in a struggle for the screwdriver.

The day before, on 12 December 2016, Whelan had broken into a home in Lynford Gardens, Ilford the first of a series of offences on the same day. He threatened his 90-year-old victim with a screwdriver, sprayed a substance he said was acid on the wall, and demanded money. His victim handed over £190.

Later he assaulted another man in an attempted robbery during which he poured liquid from a container onto the man but as he was wearing a jacket the liquid did not touch his skin and he ran to his house.

Whelan also robbed a woman of a car as she was dropping her daughter off at school, attempting to spray her with liquid but missing. He drove off in her car.

Another man was squirted with liquid by Whelan after he lowered the window of his car experiencing a burning sensation to his mouth and eyes. Whelan climbed into the car and demanded the car keys, but the victim took the keys and ran.

Finally he assaulted a woman and stole her handbag, throwing over her face what she thought was acid, but later said smelt more like ammonia, from a small aerosol with the spray nozzle removed. She could feel liquid burning and stinging her skin and was unable to see out of her left eye. Although there was no permanent damage the cells on the surface of her eye had completely gone.

He also attempted to throw the liquid at her husband when he tried to intervene.

In separate offences on 25 December 2016, Whelan pretended to be an undercover police officer to talk to a man sitting in a car in Goring Road, N11, before squeezing from a bottle what the victim thought was acid into his eye but which was later cleaned with saline wash with no lasting damage to his face or eye.  Whelan also threatened him with a screwdriver but was unable to drive the car away.

He then assaulted a second man in nearby Moffatt Road with the butt of a screwdriver four times while trying to get the keys to a car. DNA from a crutch which Whelan was carrying linked him to the offence.

Whelan also assaulted another woman, throwing her to the ground after she had started the engine of her car, hitting her with his crutch. He struck at her husband while holding a screwdriver, causing cuts to his hand.