A THIEF conned his way into a vulnerable man’s home before assaulting him in a cowardly and sickening attack.
George Heath, who has learning difficulties, was left crying on the floor after he was robbed by a man he tried to help.
The 53-year-old has been left battered and shaken after the thief took advantage of his kindly nature.
George was approached in the street on Monday morning by the stranger who asked if he would help fill up a water bottle at his nearby Grindon flat.
Once inside the property, the man demanded George hand over cash, before pushing him over and reaching inside his pocket to steal £15.
“I was standing in the street and this lad said: can I fill his water bottle up with water,” Mr Heath told the Echo.
“Afterwards, he sat down on the chair and started drinking it. He said “give me £2 or I’ll push you down”.
“He then pushed me over. I took a bad turn. I have epilepsy. He put his hand in my pocket and took £15.
“He disappeared on his bike with my money.
“I started crying, and my neighbour came up.”
Mr Heath, who lives independently with the support of social services, was helped by the neighbour who called 999.
The offender is described as white, about 5ft 8in tall, and between 30 and 40 years of age. He had blond hair, was slim and was wearing a thin black jacket and dark trousers. He made off on a blue mountain bike.
The incident has left Mr Heath, a former gardener, feeling unsafe in his own home where he has lived happily for the last four years.
“I was terrified, I was shaking,” he said.
“He pushed me. I have a bruise on the top of my leg.
“I’m all right for the time being, but I’m worried that this sort of thing will happen again. I hope they catch him.”
Danielle Martin, the twin sister of vulnerable Brent Martin who was brutally murdered on Sunderland’s Town End Farm Estate, by a group of people he thought were his friends, said the targeting of Mr Heath was disgusting.
The incident came just days after the sixth anniversary of the death of Mr Martin, 23, who also had a learning disability.
“It makes me so angry,” Danielle, 29, said. “I think it’s absolutely disgusting.
“I don’t know what goes on in these people’s heads.
“It’s the society we live in. People see them as easy targets.
“It’s just ignorance. Peoples’ attitudes have to change.”
Campaign groups against disabled hate crime have branded the case shocking, but say incidents of this nature are all too common.
Una Morris, of Stop Hate UK, said: “Unfortunately, learning disabled people are often targeted by perpetrators of hate crime who perceive them to be vulnerable.
“The victim in this case experienced a particularly distressing incident, undoubtedly made worse by the fact that it happened in his own home, a place in which he should be safe.
“We wish that we could say learning disability hate crime is rare, but it is not.
“For some people it is something that they are living with every day, yet incidents perpetrated against learning disabled people are significantly under-reported.”
Barbara Taylor, of Mencap, said the mental health charity’s campaign Stand by Me, is working with police and disability groups to raise awareness of disability hate crime, to ensure more cases are reported.
“Unfortunately, this shocking case in Sunderland is not as rare as people might think,” she added.
Anyone with information about what happened to Mr Heath is asked to call Northumbria Police on 101 ext 69191.
Stop Hate UK has a 24-hour helpline on 0808 802 1155 to support anyone who is affected by learning disability hate crime.