Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Homeless mum-of-six left blind in one eye after acid attack fined for stealing groceries 'out of desperation'
A mother-of-six who was left homeless and blind in one eye after an acid attack on a night out has been fined for stealing groceries.
Carla Whitlock, 37, and her partner Matthew Wedgner were caught trying to push a trolley filled with £150 worth of food out of a Tesco store, a court heard.
When security guards stopped Wedgner, 39, he unleashed a tirade of 'religious or racially aggravated' verbal insults on the staff. Whitlock, from Southampton, was blinded in one eye and suffered extensive burn injuries after acid was thrown in her face on a night out in September last year.
She and Wedgner later became homeless when they left police provided accommodation in Portsmouth, and began sleeping in a tent in a multi-story car park in a bid not to be separated.
Then on November 16, they were caught trying to steal £149.43 worth of groceries from Tesco in Southampton, Hants. The jobless pair both admitted theft and Wedgner also accepted several harassment charges at Southampton Magistrates Court.
Dan O'Neil, prosecuting, said: "The offense is theft of a shopping trolley full of groceries from Tesco.
"Pushing the trolley out the store Mr Wedgner was stopped and as he tried to leave and was brought back by a security guard."
Magistrates heard how he then verbally abused two Tesco security guards, making comments of a religious or racially aggravated nature. But Julie Macey, defending, told the court the pair had 'trouble with their benefits' and had stolen the items in an attempt raise funds.
She said: "You may recognize Ms Whitlock from the press.
"She was the victim of an acid attack back on September 18 last year.
"Both her and her partner were put in police protection and they were moved to a bed and breakfast in Portsmouth for their own safety.
Ms Whitlock was receiving treatment for her injuries and that was being done in Southampton.
"Neither of them work and they were having trouble with their benefits. After some treatment their police liaison officer was not able to take them back to their accommodation in Portsmouth.
"They decided in desperation they would go to Tesco and sell the goods from Tesco to raise the funds to go back to Portsmouth and their accommodation."
Whitlock was fined £15, and Magistrates reduced outstanding fines she already had to £300.
Chairman of the bench David Hunter said: "We accept that you have had a really bad run of luck but you don't always help yourself.
"You have an enormous back log of fines and given your current financial situation there is no way you are going to be able to pay them off.
"We are going to take a pragmatic approach and you will pay back what we think is a fair amount."
Since the incident, the pair have been able to secure accommodation. Wedgner was released on unconditional bail and will be sentenced in April.
Two brothers have been charged with the acid attack on Whitlock in September 2015.
In November last year Geoffrey Midmore, 26, admitted the attack on Carla when he appeared at Southampton Crown Court. His brother Billy, 22, has denied involvement in the incident and is due to begin trial on Tuesday.