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London - A handyman who bludgeoned a grandmother to death after she had welcomed him into her home ‘like family’ was jailed for life yesterday.

Paul Prause launched the ‘sickening attack’ on Rosina Coleman to steal her £7 000 (R126 000) wedding ring.

He had known the 85-year-old widow for six years doing gardening and odd jobs at her £400 000 (around R7 million) bungalow.

But the convicted burglar, who had racked up huge debts through a gambling addiction, had hidden his criminal past from her.

Mrs Coleman, who was known as Rose, considered Prause a friend and gave him a key to her house, treating him ‘like a family member’.

He rewarded her trust by creeping into her bedroom early one morning to steal her jewellery.

When the retired seamstress caught him he battered her 11 times with a hammer before ransacking her home to make it look like a burglary.

Prause went to his home nearby to change his bloody clothes before returning to the house and calling police, pretending he had found the body when he came to mow the lawn.

But his story unravelled when police found a bloody piece of the latex gloves he had bought from a DIY store in preparation for the burglary. It proved a DNA match and a search of Prause’s car found an opened packet of gloves, with two missing.

When his home was searched, a white gold diamond ring was found in his shed. The hammer he used was later recovered from a river.

Prause then changed his story to claim he had gone round for a cup of tea but hit Mrs Coleman in a rage after she made a joke at his expense, before finally admitting to the murder.

Yesterday her family told of their anger at Prause’s betrayal as he was jailed for life at the Old Bailey and ordered to serve a minimum 22 years.

Her son Robert revealed he had a heart attack shortly after his mother was found dead on May 15 at the home in Romford, east London, where she had lived for decades with her husband Bill, who died 11 years ago. He said: ‘Our lives have changed forever – we no longer have our dear mother in our lives as she has been taken so cruelly. Our mum let someone she trusted into her home and he became like a family member to her over the years.

‘This is what makes this so hard to understand. My mum was a very kind and caring person who touched everyone who came into contact with her.’

In an impact statement Mrs Coleman’s daughter Sharon Thomas said her life had been ‘devastated by the most violent death of my mum’.

She said she had had doubts about Prause when her mother hired him, but had been reassured ‘he was okay’.

‘I always believed that mum was a good judge of character, how wrong we were,’ she added.

Prause had previous convictions between 1966 and 1994 for theft, burglary and taking a vehicle without consent, the court heard.

Detective Chief Inspector Paul Considine said: ‘Prause pretended he had just come across this terrible crime when in reality he was Rose’s attacker.

‘He lied to officers until the evidence caught him out and he was forced to admit he had hit her repeatedly with a hammer.’

Sentencing Prause, Judge Philip Katz QC described the wounds inflicted as ‘sickening’.

He told Prause: ‘Mrs Coleman lived a full and independent life supported by a large and loving family.

‘The attack with the hammer was brutal and sustained for long enough that she sustained defensive injuries.

‘She was vulnerable, standing at just 4ft 11in tall. Her terror can only be imagined. There were at least 11 blows with severe force.’

Daily Mail