A DRUG addict who wrenched a “priceless” engagement ring from the finger of a 75-year-old hospital patient as she lay petrified in her bed has been jailed for more than five years.
Robert Ziga prowled around Bradford Royal Infirmary with an accomplice looking for something to steal and came across Christine Brown, who was virtually immobile and bed-ridden in a private room on Ward 15, Bradford Crown Court heard.
The other man put his hand over her mouth to stifle her cries for help while Ziga, 28, grabbed her hand and prised off the diamond ring she had worn for 52 years.
Ziga, of Oak Villas in Manningham, Bradford, pleaded guilty to the robbery in January.
Sentencing him to 64 months in prison yesterday, Judge Robert Bartfield told him he had removed an engagement ring of enormous sentimental value.
“This lady was left in huge distress. Not surprising,” he said. “Goodness knows what thoughts went through her mind when this was happening.”
Judge Bartfield said he had reduced Ziga’s sentence by a year because he later told police where to find the ring, enabling it to be returned to her. The court heard when officers gave it back to her husband he immediately kissed it through the sealed bag it was in.
The robbery was said to have had a substantial and detrimental effect on Mrs Brown, who had previously been a very positive and robust lady.
“It is not to be forgotten the devastating effect this must have had upon her son and husband too,” added the judge.
Ziga’s barrister Nigel Hamilton described the father-of-one as someone “ravaged by drugs” and conceded that the crime was abhorrent.
But he said Ziga had had an attack of conscience following his arrest and had given police information so the ring and Mrs Brown’s mobile phone, which he also stole, could be recovered.
Speaking after the hearing, investigating officer Detective Constable Richard Oxley, of Bradford South CID, said: “This was a heartless and despicable act committed against an elderly patient at her most vulnerable.
“Ziga displayed greed, when most would have shown compassion, inflicting only further strain on his victim’s health.”
With the help of witnesses, officers worked hard to ensure he was quickly identified, said DC Oxley