Burglar, 23, admits sexually assaulting and murdering widow, 89, in her home

5 February 2020, 15:31

Reece Dempster, 23, admitted sexually assaulting and murdering widow Dorothy Woolmer, 89
Reece Dempster, 23, admitted sexually assaulting and murdering widow Dorothy Woolmer, 89. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A 23-year-old burglar has admitted sexually assaulting and murdering a vulnerable 89-year-old woman in her own bed.

Reece Dempster showed little emotion as he stood to enter fresh pleas in the case of widow Dorothy Woolmer, who was attacked in Tottenham, north London, in August last year, while Dempster was on the hunt for money to feed his drug habit.

Dempster admitted one count of murder and two of sexual assault by penetration.

Prosecutors at the Old Bailey decided against proceeding with a further count of rape.

He is due to be sentenced on Thursday after changing his plea part-way through his trial.

In a statement after the case, Mrs Woolmer's family said: "Dot was a wonderful, full of life, beautiful woman.

"Family was everything to her and she was everything to us.

"The events surrounding Dot's death have brought extreme amounts of heartache and stress to our entire family. She was taken from us in such a cruel way."

"The only thing for the family now would be a severe sentence for this man in order to prevent him from being able to do this to another family."

The trial judge, His Honour Mr Justice Edis, told jurors: "I know how upsetting it would have been for all of you to have had to hear the evidence, had these events not happened."

Members of Mrs Woolmer's family were present in court as the defendant, wearing a light blue shirt, changed his pleas. He initially admitted manslaughter and burglary.

The court heard Mrs Woolmer, described by her family as "feisty" and "independent" but who was just 4ft 11in tall and had osteoporosis, suffered severe injuries to her head and groin area after being attacked by Dempster at her home in Waltheof Gardens overnight between August 3 and 4 last year.

Dempster spent around seven hours in Mrs Woolmer's home after breaking in through a back door under cover of relative darkness, arming himself with a truncheon he found in the elderly victim's downstairs cupboard while looking for cash.

Dempster fled the scene the following morning, later telling his former partner Nikita Richards he "only got a hundred quid - it wasn't even worth it".

Mrs Woolmer's lifeless and bloodied body was found, semi-naked, in her bed by her sister and a close friend who were concerned when the pensioner failed to answer the door for her morning newspaper.

Outlining the case on Monday at the start of what was intended to be a three-week trial, prosecutor Anthony Orchard QC told jurors how Dempster had carried out some gardening work for the victim the previous month and returned to burgle it.

"He had 'cased the premises'," Mr Orchard said.

"He knew a vulnerable elderly lady lived there.

"CCTV evidence that evening indicates he may have been drinking but he clearly knew what he was doing."

Mr Orchard said Dempster likely broke in via the back door some time after 10.47pm and found Mrs Woolmer asleep in bed.

"He attacked her, battering her about the head numerous times, probably because he wanted to know where the money was kept, before sexually assaulting her."

Dempster, who is 6ft 3ins, fled the scene the following morning, just before 6am, and went to his father's house nearby, vomiting several times on the way.

He then left the property with his father, nine minutes later, wearing a change of clothes, the court heard.

The court heard Dempster's demeanour changed as police began to suspect his involvement, with DNA evidence linking him to the case.

The court heard Dempster told his former partner: "Nik, I need to tell you something.

"The other night I was around my dad's house with my dad and (Dempster's brother) Aaron.

"We were smoking crack and drinking three or four bottles of gin and I was completely f*****.

"I went off and I went to rob a house. I think I hurt someone."

The court heard Ms Richards asked what he meant and Dempster replied: "You have to understand I was smoking crack and drinking gin, I just blacked out and then I turned a light on and there was blood everywhere.

"And then I ran."

He added: "It's really bad, it's really bad. I wasn't expecting anyone to be in there. I'm going to be in so much trouble."

Mr Orchard said the defendant was apparently in tears as he said it.

The court heard he showed Ms Richards his right hand which was scratched and swollen. He added, "I only got a hundred quid - it wasn't even worth it".

Mr Orchard told jurors: "He went there for money and came back with it. He knew exactly what he was doing.

"Tragically Dorothy Woolmer was killed due to Reece Dempster's need to feed his lust for drugs and alcohol."

Dempster was remanded in custody ahead of sentencing.

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