A HEROIN addict who wrecked a pensioner's life in a street robbery has been jailed for six-and-a-half years.

Ian Hartnell, 22, targeted the 89-year-old woman after she collected her pension from a post office in Ferryhill Station and left her lying in the road with a broken hip.

From being a confident, sociable woman who loved to walk about her village, Linda Haswell became an irritable recluse who needed constant care from her family and social services, Teesside Crown Court heard.

Judge Michael Taylor told Hartnell, now free of heroin after six months remanded behind bars: "When roused, you are clearly capable of the most awful acts.

"Far and away the most significant offence was when you chanced upon an elderly lady, aged almost 90, who had just picked up her pension.

"Even in your drug-induced state it must have been clear, as night follows day, that she was elderly and vulnerable.

"That incident has had a devastating effect on that elderly lady, who was a sprightly almost 90-year-old and who is now housebound."

When Hartnell was arrested, he also admitted till snatches of £270 from a Ferryhill newsagents, £370 from a shop in Spennymoor and £40 from a store in Woodham Village, Newton Aycliffe.

Stephen Ashurst, defending, said Hartnell told police: "I know what's happened to her and I am really ashamed of it."

Mr Ashurst said: "He is genuinely sorry about his behaviour and he bitterly regrets what he has done and the very considerable distress he has caused to the victims of his offending and the traumatic effect it has had."

Hartnell, of Wesley Street, Coundon Grange, was jailed for six-and-a-half years including four-and-a-half years after he admitted the robbery and the three thefts, which all occurred last September.

Detective Constable Justine Redfearn, of Durham Police, said: "This was a particularly callous attack upon an elderly and vulnerable lady.

"In giving Hartnell this substantial sentence, Judge Taylor will hopefully have allayed the fears of the elderly community of Ferryhill.

"This type of offence is becoming all too common and police hope that the sentence will serve as a deterrent to others contemplating it."