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Five years for thief who ripped ring from BRI patient on ward
A robber who wrenched the engagement ring off an elderly stroke patient at Bradford Royal Infirmary as she lay helpless and petrified in bed has been jailed for more than five years for the “mean and wicked” offence.
Robert Ziga sneaked into 75-year-old Christine Brown’s room on the hospital’s cancer ward.
Ziga violently pulled off the diamond engagment ring she had worn for 52 years. Her phone was also stolen from her bedside table.
Mrs Brown screamed for help and nurses on Ward 15 found her in a terribly distressed state, with bruising to her finger.
Ziga, 29, of Oak Villas, Manningham , Bradford, pleaded guilty to the robbery.
He was jailed for five years and four months by a judge at Bradford Crown Court yesterday.
Ziga’s barrister, Nigel Hamilton, told the court: “This was an abhorrent offence. It was mean and wicked.
“Members of the public will quite naturally be appalled.”
The court was told Mrs Brown was admitted to the hospital on December 11 last year. She did not have cancer but she had suffered two strokes and had had a fall.
She was sleeping when Ziga, who had been wandering round the hospital for an hour and a half, entered her room. Mrs Brown believed it was her son and held out her hand.
After robbing her, he fled down a fire escape to evade horrified hospital staff.
Ziga was caught a few days later with Mrs Brown’s phone in his hand. He had thrown her ring away but was later to tell police where it was.
Judge Robert Bartfield said Ziga had gone round wards looking for something to steal.
He told him: “You were seen to be looking into the rooms on Ward 15, which contained largely cancer patients and other bedridden persons.”
Ziga made off with a ring of enormous sentimental value and the phone that was Mrs Brown’s connection to her husband and the outside world, the judge noted.
“This lady was left in huge distress, not surprisingly. Goodness knows what thoughts went through her mind when this was happening,” said Judge Bartfield.
Her husband, John, and son, Damian, almost crashed their car rushing to comfort her after being told of her ordeal, the court heard.
Judge Bartfield said Mrs Brown’s son found her crying in bed and shaking.
He told Ziga: “This offence is not unique, but very distinctive in the abhorrence that everybody must feel for what you chose to do to that lady.”
The judge stressed patients must be able to feel safe in hospital.
He told Ziga: “This is a place where they go to be treated for illness, away from thieving, aggressive, hands like yours.”
Mrs Brown had been “positive and robust” before the robbery. Her health had since deteriorated and she had been critically ill.
In mitigation, Ziga’s barrister, Mr Hamilton, said his client had told police where the ring was so it could be returned.
The court heard that her overjoyed husband kissed the ring his wife had worn for 52 years.
After the case, 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.”