- Video report by ITV News West of England Correspondent Rupert Evelyn
A 96-year-old D-Day veteran who suffered multiple skull fractures after a “barbaric” attack by a hammer-wielding cold caller has stoically played down his ordeal, saying: “Worse things happen at sea.”
Jim Booth was left for dead in a pool of his own blood on the living room floor of his Taunton home after answering the door to a bogus builder.
Joseph Isaacs has been given a 20-year extended sentence at Taunton Crown Court for attempting to bludgeon Mr Booth to death with a claw hammer.
The 40-year-old had previously admitted aggravated burglary, causing grievous bodily harm and seven counts of fraud.
The Royal Navy veteran Lieutenant Commander, who after the attack was forced to half crawl, half stumble out into the street to raise the alarm with neighbours as blood poured from his wounds, said he had not been left terribly “het up” by the experience.
He said: “Yes, well, worse things happen at sea as they say, in war.”
LT Cdr Booth was left with was left with multiple depressed skull fractures and lacerations to his head, hands and arms after answering the door to illiterate Isaacs, on November 22.
Isaacs claimed he wanted money for food but when his offer of cheap building work was turned down, he angrily pursued Lt Cdr Booth through his Gipsy Lane home, hitting him again and again with a shiny, new claw hammer.
He continued to strike the great-grandfather after he had collapsed to the floor under the force of the blows.
On Friday, following a five-day trial at Taunton Crown Court, a jury found Isaacs, of no fixed abode, guilty of attempted murder after deliberating for less than two hours.
His sentence is made up of a 16-year custodial term of which he will have to serve two thirds, plus a four-year extension.
Sentencing, Judge David Ticehurst said Mr Booth was an “extraordinarily remarkable gentleman” whom Isaacs “savagely attacked with a claw hammer which you took with you for that purpose”.
He said: “It was a brutal and utterly senseless attack on him.”
The jury had heard how Isaacs, who previously lived at home with his parents, had been sleeping in his car in the days and weeks leading up to his attack on Lt Cdr Booth.
He claimed that he was in the middle of a “nervous breakdown” having broken up with his girlfriend and had not eaten for four days when he decided to approach Lt Cdr Booth’s home.
The court heard no evidence that Isaacs was suffering from mental health difficulties and Rachel Drake, for the prosecution, labelled his defence “a desperate attempt to minimise what he had done”.
Isaacs, who appeared at court via video link from HMP Long Lartin, was arrested on November 24 after using the bank card he had stolen from Lt Cdr Booth’s home at a number of shops and food outlets.
Speaking about the moment he was attacked, Lt Cdr Booth, who joined the Navy aged 18 and served throughout the Second World War, said: “He started shouting ‘money, money, money’.
“He started lifting the thing and advanced on me, pushed me backwards, right up the passage coming into this room, from the front.
“I now know that he, well I didn’t really remember it, but he hit me six times on the head as well as more on the arms with the claw hammer and the claw side of it, too.”
Lt Cdr Booth, a keen cyclist, runner and gym-goer prior to the attack, said he thought he was dead when he fell to the floor.
Injuries to Lt Cdr Booth’s arms and hands suggested he tried to ward off the blows.
Playing down his resistance, he said: “I think I probably just defended myself.
“But I’m very much saying, I blame myself, because I was special services, you know, I think I should really have known how to deal with this, but I didn’t – I was too old, obviously.”
During the war, Lt Cdr Booth joined the Combined Operations Pilotage and Reconnaissance Parties (COPP) and trained for covert beach explorations at a wartime military base set up on Hayling Island in Hampshire in 1943 under the instruction of Lord Mountbatten.
At the age of 23, Lt Cdr Booth became a pilot for the X-craft, tiny submarines that waited on the seabed for days at a time, and sailed from Portsmouth to Normandy to scout out where British forces could safely land. On D-Day, Lt Cdr Booth climbed into a fold-up canoe and shone a beacon out to sea to guide Allied craft safely to shore.
Lt Cdr Booth, who was later awarded the Croix de Guerre military medal by France for his gallantry, has four children, four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, and was described as their hero after the attack.
He is expected to be present in court when Isaacs is sentenced on Friday at 2pm.
Isaacs will also be sentenced for causing GBH with intent, aggravated burglary and six counts of fraud, which he earlier admitted in relation to the incident.
Speaking after the verdict, DCI James Riccio, who led the investigation, described Isaacs’ attack on Lt Cdr Booth as a “prolonged and barbaric ordeal”.
“He used a claw hammer to strike Mr Booth repeatedly to the head and body – even hitting him multiple times while he lay on the floor,” he said.
“It was a cowardly act and it’s a miracle Mr Booth survived these horrific injuries.”