Devon carer stole from pensioner and beat her to death to cover it up

Michael Robinson stole more than £4,000 from his client in North Devon and then killed her when she found out. Credit: Elizabeth Cook.

A carer who strangled, kicked and beat his disabled client to death after stealing from her has been jailed for a minimum of 30 years.

Michael Robinson stole more than half of 77-year-old Carol Hart's savings, a sum of nearly £6,000.

The 35-year-old started using her bank card to withdraw cash after she gave it to him in November 2020. He took out £5,650 over the next five weeks and only stopped when he was caught.

He spent the money on gambling and an increasing addiction to cocaine.

When Mrs Hart found out, she alerted her bank, the police and his employers.

Robinson, of Seaview Road in Northam, was suspended and an investigation began after her bank confirmed thousands of pounds were missing on 8 January 2021.

Michael Robinson was sentenced to 30 years in prison. Credit: Elizabeth Cook.

A 'merciless' attack

Three days later, in the early hours of 11 January, Robinson let himself into Mrs Hart's home in North Devon to try to get her to withdraw her criminal complaint against him.

It is thought she refused, leading to Robinson attacking her.

The court heard Robinson jumped onto the bed and strangled the pensioner before beating her.

During the attack, Mrs Hart was either thrown or fell off of her hospital bed. Robinson then attacked her on the floor, shattering her face with his kicks.

Robinson, who had been high on cocaine throughout the attack, then left the house.

Carol Hart pictured in 2002. Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police.

Police found Robinson's blood-stained boots at a nearby tip as well as his bloody finger print at the scene. They also found his DNA on the victim's hand, suggesting she fought back.

At Exeter Crown Court, a jury found Robinson guilty of murder and theft following a three-week trial.

On Friday 30 July, Judge Mr Justice Garnham sentenced him to a minimum of 30 years in prison, meaning he will not be eligible for parole until 2051.

The judge said: "Your job was to look after her and clean and tidy her house, make her meals and walk her dogs.

A young Carol Hart, aged 19 or 20 in this photo released by her family. She was brutally murdered aged 77. Credit: Devon and Cornwall Police.

“She became very fond of you and you professed to be fond of her, even to love her. You abused her trust and plundered her bank account.

“When your cheap and nasty deception was uncovered, you faced losing your employment and income. You decided you could not take that from her."

Describing the attack, the judge called Robinson "merciless", adding: "It was a murder intended to obstruct or interfere with the course of justice. The reason you killed her was to obstruct the investigation of your theft from her."

Mr Justice Garnham called Robinson "merciless" and described his theft an "abuse of trust". Credit: Elizabeth Cook.

He also said Mrs Hart was "particularly vulnerable", adding: "She was an elderly, disabled woman at home on her own.

"She suffered mentally and physically before her death because she was conscious throughout this dreadful attack."

He told the court there was "an abuse of trust" in the case.

"It took place in her own home where she was entitled to feel safe. You took steps to cover up your crime and avoid responsibility,” he added.

The defence said the 35-year-old was seen by his family as their bouncy, slightly foolish oldest son. Credit: Elizabeth Cook.

Mr Sean Brunton, QC, defending, said Robinson’s family are bemused by what he did because they see him as their bouncy, slightly foolish oldest son.

He said: “This was not a calculated act by a criminal setting out to perpetrate evil. It arose out of extraordinary and desperate circumstances and he knows he will pay the price for that for the rest of his life.”

 Mr Robinson will not be available for parole until at least 2051.