Northam Murder: 'Merciless' carer gets life for killing client who caught him stealing

Michael Robinson

Michael Robinson - Credit: DC Police

A ‘merciless’ killer has been jailed for life for the brutal murder of a disabled pensioner who he was supposed to be caring for.

Michael Robinson has been told he must serve at least 30 years in jail for strangling and kicking 77-year-old Carol Hart to death during an attack in her home in Northam.

He killed her to silence her after she discovered he had stolen half her life savings and reported him to the police and his employers.

He tried to cover his tracks by throwing his bloodstained boots and clothing into a bin lorry shortly afterwards but was caught because one bloodied boot was found at a tip.

Robinson let himself into Mrs Hart’s home in J H Taylor Drive in the early hours of Monday, January 11, this year to try to get her to withdraw a criminal complaint that he had used her bank card to take £5,650 from cashpoints.

Her bank confirmed the money was missing on Friday, January 8, and she called the police and the owner of the care agency, who suspended Robinson immediately.

Mrs Hart was said to be feisty and he attacked her when she refused, strangling her in her bed before punching her savagely in the face and dragging her to the floor.

Most Read

He ended the attack by repeatedly kicking her in the face with steel toe capped boots, breaking almost every bone.

Mrs Hart’s daughter and half-sister wrote moving impact statements which were read to Exeter Crown Court before he was sentenced.

Her daughter Clare Geering said: “My mother and I were estranged from each other but I always hoped we would be reconciled. He stole that chance.

“I was in court and listened carefully to the description of how he assaulted my disabled, elderly mother. I will never forget the violence that he used on her.

“She will never get to meet her four grandchildren or great grandchildren. They will never know her, and all because of a man whose job it was to care for her. He took her money and her life.”

Her half-sister Sheila Crighton said: “Carol always said she’d live to be 90 and she was such a feisty character I could well believe she would have done so if Robinson had not taken her life.

“To think she was killed by someone who was meant to care for her and keep her safe has really affected me. The violence of what he did made me feel frightened.”

Robinson, aged 35, of Seaview Road, Northam, denied murder and theft but was found guilty by a jury at Exeter Crown Court.

He was jailed for life with a minimum tariff of 30 years, which means he will not become eligible for parole until 2051.

Judge Mr Justice Garnham told him: “You were employed as Mrs Hart’s carer. Your job was to look after her and clean and tidy her house, make her meals and walk her dogs.

“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.

“She was a lady of character and courage and was not going to be fooled by you again. She stuck to her allegations and you could not have that.

“You went to her house, let yourself in, found her in her hospital bed. What happened next will not be known unless you decide to tell the truth.

“The overwhelming likelihood is that you tried to reason with her or threatened her, but she was having none of it. She is said to have been a feisty lady and no doubt she told you in no uncertain terms to get lost.

“Faced with that, you lost your temper and attacked her. I suspect you put your hands around her throat and she fought back, which explains your DNA on her hand.

“You began to punch and beat her to the head, causing a laceration deep enough to expose bone. In the course of the attack, you dragged her or she fell out of bed onto the floor.

“Your response was merciless. You laid into her with steel toed boots, kicking her to the face and shattering almost every bone in her face.

“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.

“She was particularly vulnerable. 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.

“There was an abuse of trust and the use of a weapon in the form of a foot shod with steel toed boots. 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.”

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.”

During a three-week trial the jury heard how Robinson had been the main carer for bedbound widow Carol Hart until he was suspended three days before her killing because of the missing money.

He returned to her home in J H Taylor Drive in Northam three days later in the early hours of the morning and let himself in by the back door before attacking her in her bed.

He was high on cocaine which he had bought with the stolen money and launched a savage assault in which he punched her in the face, strangled her, and kicked her in the face after dragging her to the ground.

The savagery of the attack led directly to him being tracked down and convicted of the murder because he left a bloody finger print on the bed and his blood-soaked boot was found by police at a rubbish tip.

Robinson started using Mrs Hart’s 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.

Mrs Hart became suspicious when she found her account was thousands of pounds short and complained to the care agency which employed Robinson and the police on Friday January 8 this year.

He was suspended but defied an order to stay away from Mrs Hart by going round later that day to try to persuade her of his innocence.

She sent him packing and said she was not scared of him, but he promised he would return and did so on the morning of Monday 11.

The police were able to pinpoint the time of the attack between 3 and 6 am because there was so much blood at the murder scene that it shorted out the electricity, thus triggering an alert from her pendant alarm.

She was found in a scene of horror by a stand-in carer later that day and quick action by the police enabled them to search the refuse transfer station within hours.

They found the bloodstained boot which Robinson had thrown directly into the back of a refuse truck in one of two binbags as it passed his home in Seaview Road, Northam at 7 am.

He had previously been a binman and was recognised by one of his old workmates who knew him by the nickname Chinny, given to him because of his prominent chin.

He denied ever going back to Mrs Hart’s home and came up with a series of improbable stories to explain away the forensic evidence. His evidence was dismissed as a litany of lies by the prosecution.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter