Screwdriver wielding burglar facing jail for terrifying Goodmayes acid attack spree

PUBLISHED: 07:00 22 September 2017

Wood Green Crown Court. Picture: PA

Wood Green Crown Court. Picture: PA

PA Archive/PA Images

A burglar who sprayed acid at a 69-year-old woman in her Goodmayes home causing lifelong scars, will be sentenced today for a spate of brutal attacks.

On three days in December last year Gerard Whelan terrorised seven men and women in the Redbridge neighbourhood, attacking and robbing them with a screwdriver and acid.

On December 13 he broke into the 69-year-old’s home in Westwood Road, as she slept.

When she woke he was holding a screwdriver over her as she lay in her bed saying: “If you don’t be quiet I will kill you.”

He took a bangle and rings from her hand and arm and made her sit downstairs while he searched kitchen cupboards.

When she tried to escape he stopped her and squeezed a substance onto her from a white bottle causing her serious injuries.

He also broke her little finger in a struggle for the screwdriver.

The woman suffered burns to 24pc of her body and has had to undergo skin grafts and surgeries, with permanent scars to her arms, legs, body and face.

The acid used was found to be the same strength as sulphuric acid.

Crown Prosecution Service reviewing lawyer Lily Saw said: “Whelan’s use of acid in this burglary shows him to be an extremely dangerous individual.

“His victim was hospitalised for eight weeks in extreme pain.

“She had to undergo numerous operations, skin grafts and has been left severely scarred for the rest of her life and suffering emotional trauma. Despite this she was able to support the prosecution and pick Whelan out in an identity parade.

“The strength of the acid destroyed the flooring, carpets, a sofa and a door in her home.

“Whelan must now face the consequences of his devastating actions.”

The day before, he had broken into a home in Lynford Gardens, also Goodmayes – the first in the terrifying spate of offences on the same day.

He threatened his 90-year-old victim with a screwdriver, sprayed a substance he said was acid on the wall, and demanded money.

His victim handed over £190.

Later, Whelan assaulted another man in an attempted robbery during which he poured liquid from a container onto him.

Luckily he was wearing a jacket and escaped without injury.

The thug then stole a woman’s car as she was dropping her daughter off at school, attempting to spray her with acid but missing.

He drove off in her car.

Another victim was squirted with a liquid by Whelan after he lowered the window of his car – leaving him with a burning sensation to his mouth and eyes.

Whelan climbed into the car and demanded the car keys, but the victim took the keys and ran.

Finally he assaulted a woman and stole her handbag, throwing over her face what she thought was acid, but later said smelt more like ammonia, from a small aerosol with the spray nozzle removed.

She could feel liquid burning and stinging her skin and was unable to see out of her left eye.

Although there was no permanent damage the cells on the surface of her eye had completely gone.

Whelan also attempted to throw the liquid at her husband when he tried to intervene.

On Christmas Day, he went on another rampage in Enfield, where he again threw noxious liquids at innocent and unsuspecting members of the public after pretending to be an undercover police officer.

Detectives were able to link him to this separate spate of attacks by DNA traces left on a crutch he had used during one of the attacks.

In July, Whelan, 45, of Penfold Place, Paddington, admitted the offences at Wood Green Crown Court.

He was charged with grievous bodily harm, for the attack on the 69-year-old woman, aggravated burglary, and a raft of other robbery offences.

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