Page last updated at 16:50 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 17:50 UK

Life term for grandmother killer in Teesside

Steven Hodgson
Hodgson went on a spending spree using Mrs Thompson's bank card

A burglar has been jailed for life after being convicted of strangling a Teesside woman in her bungalow then torching it to destroy the evidence.

Steven Hodgson, 33, of South Bank, Middlesbrough was convicted unanimously of murder and burglary after a six-day trial at Teesside Crown Court.

The body of Patricia Thompson was found in the burnt-out property in Hartburn, Stockton, last September.

Mr Justice Davis sentenced Hodgson to life with a minimum term of 34 years.

Hodgson had broken into the grandmother's home after researching the area on Google Maps, two days before her murder.

On sentencing, Judge Davis said Hodgson had tortured Mrs Thompson to make her tell him her bank Pin number.

'Dangerous man'

He said: "I can detect at no stage the slightest degree of remorse on your part at the death of this lovely woman.

"You are a very dangerous man."

The court heard Hodgson, who had admitted burglary but denied murder, had fled the scene in a taxi after the incident in September.

The grandmother-of-six, who was described as "bright as a button", had lived alone at Emma Simpson Court, run by a trust for the over-65s, for nine years.

A grave feature is you inflicted violence almost in the form of torture on her with a view to extracting a Pin number
Mr Justice Davis

The prolific burglar, with a long history of violence, admitted to the jury he preferred to break into homes when the occupier was in, as that meant cash, handbags and bank cards were present.

The judge accepted Hodgson was not armed when he broke in.

"You didn't need to have a weapon, she was an old lady," Mr Justice Davis said.

"You knew the house was occupied by an old lady, that's one of the reasons why you deliberately targeted it.

"A grave feature is you inflicted violence almost in the form of torture on her with a view to extracting a Pin number before you strangled her."

The court heard the heroin and crack user broke in through a bathroom window, confronted Mrs Thompson and then killed her.

He then called a taxi from her house phone, started fires in the bedroom and living room and fled in the taxi with two suitcases full of her property.

Firefighters found the grandmother's body after a fingertip search and a murder probe was launched when police found she had died before the fire started.

Patricia Thompson
Patricia Thompson had lived in her bungalow for nine years

Teesside Crown Court heard Hodgson went on a spending spree using Mrs Thompson's bank card and got his partner to pawn stolen jewellery, including the grandmother's wedding ring.

After his arrest, Hodgson's DNA was linked to samples found under his victim's fingernails, indicating she fought for her life.

The jury dismissed his defence case that DNA was left on her hands when she ruffled his hair after he offered to clean her windows.

Hodgson tried to explain why he possessed items taken in the burglary by saying he broke into the pensioner's home the night before she was murdered - claiming another intruder must have killed her.

After the trial and sentencing, Mrs Thompson's two daughters released a statement describing their mother as a "loving, joyful and gentle lady."

They said: "She is and will continue to be greatly missed by her family and friends.

'Evil character'

"This eight months has been terribly difficult for our family, but we are grateful for the kindness and support shown to us by our communities.

"While the court case has been an added burden to bear, we are pleased that justice has been done today."

Det Supt Gordon Lang described Mrs Thompson as "a true pillar of the community".

"Pat deserved to be safe in her own home and the actions of one cowardly individual have shattered many lives," he added.

"Hodgson is a despicable and evil character who is beneath contempt."

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