Murder-charge defendant 'preyed on elderly'

A woman accused of murdering a Norfolk pensioner has a long history of preying on the "elderly, weak and vulnerable", a court has heard. Prosecutors at Norwich Crown Court were given special dispensation to reveal the criminal record of Josephine Dougan, who denies killing 74-year-old Elsie Rees at her home in Norwich.

A woman accused of murdering a Norfolk pensioner has a long history of preying on the "elderly, weak and vulnerable", a court heard yesterday.

Prosecutors at Norwich Crown Court were given special dispensation to reveal the criminal record of Josephine Dougan, who denies killing 74-year-old Elsie Rees at her home in Norwich.

Dougan has also pleaded not guilty to burgling Mrs Rees's home, deceiving a friend to give her up to £4,000 by pretending she had cancer and a lesser count of manslaughter.

The jury was told her previous offences include stealing from an elderly man whose wife she had befriended at a drop-in centre, taking items from patients' bedside tables in a hospital and theft from rooms in a care home.

Patricia Lynch, prosecuting, said: "This is a woman who portrays herself as a Good Samaritan, a caring woman who showed nothing but concern for Mrs Rees. But her history shows she targets the elderly, weak and vulnerable for her own advantage. That is what the Crown believes happened in this case."

Mrs Rees was found dead at her home in Canterbury Place, Norwich, in the early hours of June 15 last year. She had suffered a heart attack after sustaining an injury to her head.

Most Read

A pathologist's report said that the bleeding wound, which was close to her temple, could have been the result of a fall but was mostly caused by a blow from a blunt instrument.

The court was told that Dougan, 58, of Orchard Street, Norwich, constructed an elaborate cover story claiming she found Mrs Rees dying after earlier seeing a strange man outside Mrs Rees's home.

She claimed she tried to resuscitate her.

But at 5.20am - the time she claims she was trying to save her friend's life - a call from her mobile phone was made to Wally Webb's BBC Radio Norfolk phone-in.

Mrs Lynch said the prosecution will later call Mr Webb to give evidence that he regularly received calls from "Josie" offering answers to trivia questions.

Dougan had visited Mrs Rees's flat to take several items including a radio timer, an electric lamp clock and bedding, she said.

The court was told that it was during this burglary that the alleged attack took place.

Mrs Lynch said that all the items were later recovered at Dougan's home - but Dougan insisted they had been given to her by Mrs Rees.

One witness will tell the court that the radio timer was an item that Mrs Rees treasured and, even when she was short of money, she would not part with it.

The case continues.