A COWARD who bound and gagged a pensioner and ransacked her home was last night starting a nine-year prison sentence - for the sake of just £40.

Anthony Wahab was branded "evil" by his traumatised victim, "despicable" by police, and a danger to the public by a judge who jailed him yesterday.

The 43-year-old offered to clear snow from the widow's path, then sneaked inside her Hartlepool home and was found upstairs searching a bedroom.

Wahab wrapped the householder in bandages, tied her arms and ankles, shoved cotton wool in her mouth and threatened to cut off her dog's ears.

Moments earlier, he knocked her to the floor and stuck his knee in her back as the terrified 78-year-old grandmother tried to flee to raise the alarm.

Wahab - a career criminal with previous convictions for targeting elderly people in their homes - claimed to have no memory of the sickening crime.

He said that he was the victim of an elaborate police set-up engineered after his apparent memory loss caused by mixing prescription drugs.

Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, refused to accept the pathetic amnesia excuse, and told Wahab: "It may be you now wish you hadn't done it."

In an impact statement, the victim told how her independent and busy life has been ruined by the devastating day-time raid January 26 this year.

She is too scared to return home or go out walking her Yorkshire terrier, Bonnie, and said: "This man is evil for what he has put me through."

Prosecutor Sue Jacobs told the court how the woman was found in a chair in the corner of a downstairs room by her daughter and grandchildren.

She looked "dazed and shocked" and had a bruise above her left eye and cuts to her lower lip and the corner of her mouth, said Mrs Jacobs.

She told her family that she felt sorry for the man when he knocked at the door and offered to shovel away snow from outside her home for 50p.

John Ellwood, mitigating, admitted what Wahab did was "dreadful" but said he had not used a weapon and said: "It is correct small value was taken."

Wahab, of Rydal Street, Hartlepool, admitted robbery. He will serve an extended four-year licence period after he is released from his sentence.

Judge Bourne-Arton told him: "You deliberately targeted the home of that elderly and frail lady . . . you were full of a dreadful and deadly cocktail.

"This was as bad a case of robbery as many can envisage . . . I consider you are a dangerous individual, who is quite prepared to target elderly people and use violence against them.

"What few years left she has are now blighted by the thought of what you did to her. She may never recover from that."

The court heard that Wahab was jailed for six years in 2002 for raiding a pensioner's home in a ski mask and stealing jewellery after making threats.