Jail for raider whose victim was pregnant

Paul Benson
Paul Benson

Detectives have condemned an axe-wielding armed raider who targeted a heavily-pregnant woman and her partner in their own home.

Paul Benson and an accomplice burst into the home of Kristie Sleigh and her partner Christopher North in May last year, Bolton Crown Court was told.

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Wearing skull masks, the pair fled the property in Leigh Road, Hindley Green, with an expensive gents watch and £4,000, which Mr North used as a float for his building business, the court heard.

Benson, of Grasmere Avenue, Higher Ince, is now beginning a 10-year jail sentence after admitting to an aggravated burglary charge.

And Judge Richard Gioserano imposed a three-year extended term, covering his eventual release.

CCTV cameras captured Benson and his partner-in-crime as they approached the house and smashed their way through French windows.

One of the pair swore at the couple and threatened to hurt them unless they co-operated. Once they had grabbed their haul, they ran off towards Thomas Street.

Prosecutors say Benson was caught out after his mask, ladies stockings, a balaclava and neck warmer, marked with his DNA, were found in the garden of a house in Atherton.

The day after the break-in householder Kevin Blake spotted the items, dumped in a rucksack, alongside Benson’s mobile phone, which had been snapped in half. Benson, 37, is known to have been stopping with his mother in a house nearby.

Arrested later, Benson tried to claim that he had stopped using the mobile in question some time previously. But checks on its last usage showed it had been operational right up until the day of the Hindley Green attack and could be placed in the same locality.

The court heard that he even accepted that the garments belong to him. But he insisted that he had acquired them to carry out some unrelated vandalism, a few months before.

Speaking after the case, Det Sgt Stuart Woodhead, who led the investigation, said: “This was an atrocious burglary where an innocent woman felt terrified in her own home.

“She was heavily pregnant at the time and the stress caused by this traumatic incident could have had devastating effects on her and her unborn child.

“This woman has been extremely brave from the outset and I want to thank her and her partner for her help throughout this investigation.

“I would also like to thank the witnesses in this case, if it wasn’t for their co-operation this sentence would not be possible.

“How Benson planned this attack with no compassion for the homeowners is beyond comprehension.

“He is a dangerous man and I’m thankful he’s now in prison.”

Fortunately Kristie, who has worked as an air hostess for Jet2, did not suffer any long-lasting effects, as a result of her ordeal, and she gave birth to the couple’s son, Jude, a short time later, at Wigan Infirmary.

Speaking at the time Mr North, who runs First Base North West, thanked family, friends and police for their efforts.

“It was a straightforward birth and everything was perfect, after all that happened,” added the former Hindley High student.