EXCLUSIVE: Romanian member of gang jailed for more than six years

EXCLUSIVE: Romanian member of gang whose house raid led to death of World War Two veteran, 98, is jailed for more than six years

  • A gang broke into the home of a WWII vet who later died in hospital from injuries
  • Nicolae Ion is a serial burglar who committed offences in Romania before the UK 

A Romanian burglar whose gang broke into the home of a 98-year-old WWII hero in a raid that eventually led to the pensioner’s death was jailed today.

Retired telephone engineer Peter Gouldstone was found by his son Simon, collapsed on the bedroom floor of the property he had happily occupied for over sixty years.

The Second World War veteran had been living alone in his house in Outer London since the death of his wife in 2013.

He was found to have suffered severe injuries, including two bleeds to the brain and extensive bruising after a gang broke into his home.

The house was ransacked, including the bedroom the elderly man was sleeping in, and the gang of burglars escaped with a £20 Panasonic TV as well as jewellery, with only sentimental value.

Peter Gouldstone was found by his son Simon, collapsed on the bedroom floor of the property he had happily occupied for over sixty years

Mr Gouldstone died three weeks later after suffering severe injuries, including two bleeds to the brain and extensive bruising

READ MORE: Romanian ‘career criminal’, 31, admits his role in plot to burgle home of 98-year-old war veteran who was beaten to death during break-in for his £20 TV set

Career burglar Nicolae Ion, 32, known as Patrascu, was sentenced at Snaresbrook Crown Court, where he pleaded guilty to conspiring with persons unknown to burgle dwelling houses in New Southgate on or before November 6, 2018.

This included the Evesham Road home of Mr Gouldstone, which was targeted by the Romanian gang on Bonfire Night 2018, with Ion captured on a neighbour’s CCTV.

Police found his fingerprints on the handle of a rear patio door, near another rear door, which had been forced open, but he has always insisted he did not enter the property.

Prosecutor Bartholomew O’Toole said: ‘Two men are seen on CCTV in the garden of a property in Shrewsbury Road staking out a dwelling house, but instead broke into Mr Gouldstone’s rear garden.

‘The defendant’s fingerprints are found outside on the patio door handle and the rear kitchen door was forced and damaged.

‘There was an untidy search, both downstairs and upstairs. They opened drawers and threw items into the bathtub and searched the bedroom of the war veteran, who had been mentioned in dispatches.

‘Mr Gouldstone’s son Simon, alerted by a neighbour, found him lying on the bedroom floor unconscious. He was taken to hospital, but never recovered consciousness and died on November 30.’

In his victim impact statement, Simon Gouldstone said: ‘This was all a great shock to both me and my sister and after the burglary I participated in a press conference, gave an interview to the BBC and took part in the Crimewatch programme.

The gang broke into the home and ransacked it just for a £20 television and also jewellery which only had sentimental value

Mr Gouldstone was attacked and robbed in his own home on Evesham Road in Enfield, north London

‘This was all very challenging for me, but the police and hospital staff were very supportive as were the messages from family and friends and from people we did not even know.

‘I have been a conduit for the other local neighbours, who are concerned by threats to their own safety and the police sealed the site for four months before we could enter the house and deal with my father’s affairs.

‘My father’s situation was particularly distressing, to assault a 98-year-old with poor hearing is beyond belief for an old tv and items of jewellery with only sentimental value.

‘Nobody deserves to die in those circumstances and the toll on the family has been significant.’

Ion fought the charge until the day of his trial and was anxious to distance himself from Mr Gouldstone’s death, even insisting his defence barrister David Langwallner make a futile application for a press reporting restriction.

He was eventually caught after flying into Edinburgh Airport on September 6 last year from his native Romania while on a Metropolitan Police wanted list.

Ion’s fingerprints were found at other break-ins and he also pleaded guilty to burgling a propery on Oaks Lane in Ilford on August 4, 2019, stealing jewellery; two suitcases; a television and two jewellery boxes.

He further pleaded guilty to the attempted burglary, with others, of  a house on Manor Drive North, New Malden, south-west London on July 30, 2019.

Ion also pleaded guilty to another burglary in August 2019 when a conservatory door was smashed down and a television, laptop and cash were taken in Waltham Abbey.

He was further sentenced for the burglary of an address in Bishop’s Stortford, where £7,900 worth of cash, laptops, phones, watches, plus a satnav and camera were taken.

He was able to legally enter the UK despite having served sentences of three years and three-and-a-half years in his home country for offences of theft and where he received a suspended sentence for robbery.

While the Gouldstone tragedy was being investigated, Ion continued committing offences in this country, receiving 24 weeks in prison for a north-west London burglary in August 2020 when he broke into a residential property and stole power tools.

He also received four weeks of custody for breaking into a garden shed in 2020 and stealing a bike and eight weeks imprisonment for driving while disqualified.

Today, he was also disqualified from driving for six years after pleading guilty to dangerous driving during a 3am police chase on March 3, 2019 when his silver Vauxhall collided with a lamp post and parked car.

Two other men were in the car, along with power tools and the apparent proceeds of theft or burglary, but the items could not be traced to any owners.

‘It is not the Crown’s case that this defendant caused the death of Mr Gouldstone,’ said Mr O’Toole. ‘He pleaded guilty on the basis he did not enter the premises but was with other people who did.

‘This was part of a spree carried out by this defendant and others and required a great deal of planning and organisation.

‘It would have been apparent there was a vulnerable victim in the bedroom when they continued to steal and Ion is party to that joint-enterprise when the bedroom is entered.

‘The offences are at night, there is a vulnerable victim and the group came to the UK from Romania.’

Mr Langwallner told the court: ‘There is no doubt this is a spate of burglaries by a criminal gang.

‘He would show up and be designated a role in this floating community and is not sure of their identities, but there were always two or three people.

‘He is a burglar and he has been involved in a gang that causes terror in people. It is behaviour that is not to be approved or condoned.

‘He is specific he did not enter Mr Gouldstone’s home and I do not wish to diminish the honour of this war veteran. It is a horrific set of circumstances.

‘He has always maintained he had nothing to do with the elderly victim’s death and was outside.

‘He did not learn any lessons from the burglary, he is a persistent burglar and continued to be so.

‘The monies were sent back to his family in Romania, where he has three young children.

‘He will inevitably serve some of his sentence in Romania and hopefully not be allowed in this country again and hopefully find a better way to be a breadwinner for those children.

‘He accepts he is a burglar and has done wrong. He puts his hands up, but says he knew nothing about what happened to Mr Gouldstone.’

Judge Louise Kamill told bearded Ion, who needed the assistance of an interpreter: ‘You are a burglar, a dishonest man and since 2010 have committed many offences.

‘You served prison sentences in Romania before coming to this country and associating with a criminal gang here.

‘Their aim was always burglary and you make no secret of it. You sent the money home and from time-to-time you went home.

‘This was a particularly serious burglary. The occupant of the house was sleeping upstairs, was hard of hearing and aged ninety-eight years old.

‘It is accepted you did not enter, but you were part of the gang when things were taken, including from the bedroom of the man with items piled up in the bathtub.

‘Afterwards that gentleman died and you are not responsible for his death, but it was a consequence of the shock and terror of burglary.’

Mr Gouldstone, who worked for the Post Office until retiring in 1980, passed away in hospital three weeks after the break-in.

A post-mortem confirmed the cause of death as complications of a traumatic head injury.

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