UPDATED: York killer jailed for 12 years

Peter Harris

Elsie Mowbray

Victoria Court, where the burglary happened

First published in News
Last updated
by , Court reporter

A drug addict who subjected a 87-year-old woman to a "brutal, violent and ugly nightmare" when he killed her in her own home has been jailed for 12 years.

Habitual burglar Peter Anthony John Harris, 33, drank alcohol as he cruised around York on New Year's Day looking for places to burgle and people to rob so he could buy drugs, Leeds Crown Court heard.

Nicholas Askins, prosecuting, said Harris barged into the Victoria Court home of Else Mowbray, 87, and when her son Richard arrived and tried to detain him, he pushed her over as he fled.

Her head hit the wall hard and she died some days later.

An hour or so later, Harris forced his way into the home of an acquaintance Graham Falconer in Turpin Court, and robbed him and his partner in the presence of a tiny baby.

Talking about Mrs Mowbray’s death, Mr Justice Lindblom told Harris, 33: "Her family had hoped her death when it came would be peaceful, not the brutal, violent ugly nightmare it turned out to be."

Harris, of no fixed address, showed no emotion as he was jailed for 12 years after admitting the manslaughter of Mrs Mowbray, burgling her home and robbery.

Mr Askins said Harris had been released from the latest of several prison sentences for burglary on November 18, and had been given bail by York magistrates 15 days before he killed Mrs Mowbray.

He had been high on alcohol and possibly drugs when he set out before 9am from the friend's house where he had seen in the New Year. CCTV recorded him cycling around the more central parts of York and drinking as he looked for homes to burgle. By the time he reached Victoria Court at about 11am he had covered his face with a scarf.

Mr Mowbray saw him turning slow circles in the road as he went for his daily walk to a newsagent's to buy a paper for his mother, who had been widowed for 23 years and who, her relatives were to tell the judge, would help anyone and had lived a blameless life, not harming anyone.

Mr Askins, said as soon as the son had gone, Harris went to the mother's house, and claiming he wanted to look for a rabbit in her garden, got into the house and went upstairs.

He was still there when Mr Mowbray arrived, confronted him, told him to stay where he was and tried to ring the police.

But Harris made his escape, pushing Mrs Mowbray over as he fled and evading her son's bid to stop him by putting a stick through the spokes of his wheel.

"If you had not chosen to burgle her home you would not have been there. If you had not been there and tried to escape she would not have sustained a serious injury to her head which proved to be fatal," the judge told Harris.

Mr Askins said Mrs Mowbray was taken to York Hospital where she was discharged the same day because she didn't display any symptoms of injury. But the next day, Mr Mowbray found her collapsed on her kitchen floor when he delivered her newspaper. She had probably laid there all night.

She was taken back to hospital with internal head bleeding and died on January 8.

An hour or so after fleeing from her home and drinking more alcohol, Harris forced his way into Mr Falconer's home and told him: "The whole police force is after me, I need some money."

Mr Askins said Harris took £40 Mr Falconer and his partner were saving for her 16-week baby who was present as Harris searched their pockets and their home.

She was terrified for the baby's safety and both were later to tell the judge how the robbery had had a major impact upon them.

Harris returned to his then home in Apollo Court when police found him a few hours later hiding under a bed.

For Harris, Nicholas Barker said he wanted to express his "deep regret" at what he had done.

"There is little mitigation I can offer," he said.

Harris' crimes were driven by his long term deep addiction to drugs and alcohol. He had had a difficult upbringing.

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