Serial burglar killed isolated victim in ‘wicked’ attack 22 years ago
- Credit: Norfolk Constabulary
A serial burglar jailed for targeting elderly people is a convicted killer who kicked a woman to death in a chilling assault 22 years ago.
Wayne Hambling was today given a 13 year extended sentence, having tricked and stolen from an 83-year-old woman in sheltered housing - returning a week later to rob her 76-year-old neighbour of his life savings.
The attacks were the latest in a litany of similar offences by 41-year-old Hambling in recent years - each time against elderly and vulnerable victims.
Norwich Crown Court heard that Hambling launched his first attack in 1997, when he and an accomplice broke into the Suffolk home of Barbara Paulley, 63.
When she caught them in the act the pair launched a "wicked" attack on her and left her for dead.
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Spending seven years behind bars for manslaughter did not deter Hambling from continuing his onslaught against the elderly.
Yesterday Hambling was jailed for nine years with four years extended licence, after admitting a burglary and robbery at Waddington Court, Norwich.
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He took advantage of the victims leaving their doors ajar in last summer's heatwave.
Jailing him, Judge Maureen Bacon said it was now clear Hambling's "modus operandi" was targeting the elderly and vulnerable.
On July 19, 1997, Barbara Paulley was marking her 63rd birthday.
She lived alone in an isolated cottage in the village of Westleton, near Southwold.
With a "trusting nature", she used to leave a window open at her home in Ralph's Mill Cottage so neighbours could come and check on her.
But Hambling, along with accomplice Brian Haigh, used the same open window to break into her home and take £3,000 in cash from her handbag.
Miss Paulley disturbed the pair as they rummaged through her home. They attacked her, shoving her into the fireplace, where she lay as both men kicked her repeatedly.
Hambling and Haigh left their victim to die as they went to search for more cash.
When Miss Pauley's body as found, there was no sign of forced entry and police believed she had fallen and died accidentally.
A coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death and Miss Pauley was buried in August of that year.
But when Hambling and Haigh began boasting about their crime and went on a spending spree - buying TVs and stereo equipment - officers looked at the case more closely.
A murder inquiry was launched six weeks after Miss Pauley's death after a tip-off to the funeral director, and her body had to be exhumed for a second post-mortem examination.
In January 1998, Hambling and Haigh were arrested and both admitted manslaughter.
Norwich Crown Court heard how the pair had gone for a kebab then settled in a pub to count their "ill-gotten gains" after assaulting Miss Pauley.
They had not bothered to check her condition or call for help.
Tragically the trust she placed in her own neighbours was misplaced. Hambling had been one of them, living on Blythburgh Road in Westleton at the time.
Mr Justice Newman described the crime as "wicked" and told the pair: "You both caused the death of a 63-year-old lady for the sake of taking money in order to buy TV sets, hi-fi equipment and to ride about in taxi cabs.
"You should think hard on the choice you made that day and think hard as to how it is that you came so far removed from normal decent conduct.
"It means that you placed greater value on obtaining her money than on her wellbeing. You chose to do her harm to satisfy your greed for money."
In the 22 years since the death of Miss Paulley, Hambling did not mend his ways.
As recently as last summer he was using the very same tactics to enter the homes of elderly people and steal from them.
On July 29, 2018 he crept through the door of an 83-year-old woman at Waddington Court in Norwich.
She had left her door ajar for ventilation in the heat.
Prosecutor Martin Ivory told Norwich Crown Court: "She heard a cough and turned around to see her door was open. She walked with her walking frame to the kitchen and encountered a man wearing a yellow high-vis jacket pretending to be a workman.
"He said 'I have to check your smoke alarms because of the heat'. She thought it was quite odd but thought he must have been sent by the council."
Hambling made a show of looking at the alarms before asking for a glass of water. When the woman was not looking he stole £300 in cash from her handbag.
Nine days later, on August 7, a 76-year-old man living next door also had his door ajar due to the heat.
When Hambling appeared in his doorway, the man, who recently had triple bypass heart surgery, "challenged him".
"The defendant headed straight towards him and sprawled out on the sofa demanding water," Mr Ivory said.
When told to get out Hambling got to his feet and "came at" his victim.
"He grabbed hold of him by his t-shirt, wrestled him to the floor and knocked over a table," said Mr Ivory.
"[The victim] ended up on the carpet with the defendant ripping at his trousers."
Hambling took £605 in cash from the man's wallet - his "life savings". But in the course of both burglaries he left behind DNA; on a glass of water and on his victim's trousers.
In a victim impact statement, the man said he felt he was targeted because of his "age and disability".
"Still to this day I have memories of that event. I see the man coming into my property and lunging at me," he said. "It infuriates me I couldn't defend myself."
Since the incidents at Waddington Court, Hambling was jailed for 21 months for theft, burglary and making false representations for a separate incident.
He had entered the home of a 66-year-old asking for water before stealing cash and her purse.
And in 2017 he was jailed for two years for robbing an 82-year-old man of £900.
Andrew Oliver, for Hambling, said he had "clearly targeted elderly residents".
"He is deeply ashamed of yet again becoming involved in things of this nature as a result of craving Class A drugs," he added.
"At age 41 he is well aware his life is slipping away from him."
Jailing Hambling for nine years with four years extended licence, Judge Maureen Bacon told him conditions of his release would prevent him going to Waddington Court or any other home for elderly residents.
"In 1997 you and another burgled the home of an elderly woman," she said. "She disturbed you and was knocked to the fireplace where both of you assaulted her. She died of her injuries."
"It is now plain your usual modus operandi is targeting the elderly," she added.
Hambling, of Norwich Prison, was given nine years custody for the robbery with four years extended licence, and five years for the burglary to run concurrently.
Hambling read a latter aloud to Norwich Crown Court in which he apologised to his victims.
"I am so sorry for what I have done," he said.
"I would like to say a big sorry to the victims. I feel so bad for what I did.
"I don't want any dependency on drugs or anything to do with that way of life."
He produced two certificates he had been awarded in prison, where he has found a cleaning job and studied towards City and Guild qualifications.
"I am more positive and more focused to life outside," he added. "I think about life now so much and I am going to do my best in life now."
But Judge Bacon said Hambling had written her a letter before - as she jailed him in 2017.
"Unfortunately, the contrition expressed then was not consistent as you went on to offend, even while on licence," she told him.
"You pose a high risk of serious harm to the public, with the elderly at risk in the first instance."