One of the district’s top cops has labelled a sick pensioner “despicable” after the pervert was this week jailed for sexually assaulting a 91-year-old great grandmother.
Remorseless Eric Fleming subjected his vulnerable victim to a two-day court ordeal as she bravely gave evidence against him to expose his shocking abuse after he denied it took place.
Fleming befriended the widow, described by witnesses as “posh, lonely, and blind”, and talked himself into her home in Falkirk with regular deliveries of fish and chips.
The 68-year-old surveyor’s behaviour turned “appalling” and he began to sexually interfere with the woman, now 92 and also partly deaf and disabled, Stirling Sheriff Court was told.
The nonagenarian had to spend nearly two days giving evidence and being cross-examined via a video link as a result of Fleming’s denials of what he had done to her.
Detective Chief Inspector Boyd, the man in charge of the Forth Valley Police Division’s Public Protection Unit based in Larbert, said: “This was a disgusting and despicable crime committed against a vulnerable lady who had to endure the added trauma of giving evidence in court.
“The verdict and judgement demonstrates that Police Scotland and partners within the justice system are determined to protect and safeguard vulnerable adults and pursue those who prey on them.”
DCI Boyd also urged elderly victims of crime against them, or anyone with concerns about an older person’s wellbeing to contact police immediately.
“The elderly are one group where vulnerabilities can be often be masked through pride, embarrassment or feelings of helplessness and I would encourage everyone to be alert to circumstances where an adult is at risk and if in any doubt contact the police.”
Fleming’s victim said he had visited her on July 30 last year and stripped off in her downstairs living room where she had a bed.
As she gave evidence her voice shook: “He was naked. He came into contact with me and it wasn’t nice. It was horrible.”
She told prosecutor Sarah Lumsden that Fleming had “taken advantage” of her.
She added: “I didn’t like it at all, but what could I do? I couldn’t fight him.”
Fleming’s abuse of the old lady was discovered by chance by two council carers paying their regular evening visit to give the old lady her tea at a slightly later time than usual.
Fleming, from Brightons, denied wrongdoing and claimed that he had started a relationship with the victim after his wife died in 2007.
But after a trial that lasted a week, a jury of nine men and six women found him guilty last month of sexual assault.
On Tuesday, when he re-appeared for sentence, Sheriff Wyllie Robertson told him that the jury had not believed his claims that his victim had consented – a position he maintained even to social workers carrying out a social enquiry report.
The Sheriff said: “This was a serious offence that was carried out on a vulnerable 91-year-old woman in her own home.” Imposing the jail term, he turned to guards and instructed: “Take him away.”
During the trial, Falkirk Council worker Linda Pauley told the court she and a colleague found Fleming in her room naked to the waist pulling his trousers up.
She said: “It was a shocking scene to walk in on. Every bit of his body I could see was red. His skin was dripping with sweat.
“Even his arms were bright red, as if he had run a marathon, and he was puffed out.”
Fleming told her: “It’s not what it looks like. I was giving her a leg massage.”
The carer said: “I screeched with horror and said, ‘What, like, naked?’” She said she immediately thought the old lady had been getting raped.
Fleming, who worked for the National Coal Board and then Barratt Homes before his retirement, was also placed on the sex offender’s register. The Adult Support & Protection Unit (ASP) within the PPU is unique the only dedicated unit within the Police Scotland framework designed to deal exclusively with adults at risk.
The unit is headed up by Detective Inspector Nigel Thacker, a Detective Sergeant and three Detective Officers who work closely with partner agencies investigating crimes against adults at risk, which include physical and sexual harm, psychological harm, theft, fraud, embezzlement or extortion.
Since April there have been 134 referrals across the Forth Valley and the unit is experiencing an increasing workload dealing with financial harm against the elderly through the likes of bogus callers and criminals who con older people out of their savings.
DI Thacker said: “The abuse and exploitation of society’s most vulnerable adults is a devastating crime.
“I hope that by highlighting the work of our specialist officers within Forth Valley, and excellent partnership relationships with Social Work and NHS that the public will be encouraged to look out for signs of abuse and to report any concerns.
“This allows us to investigate any concerns with our partner agencies and also to ensure that the victim is supported and protected from future abuse. Your extra vigilance can deter this type of offending and help protect some of societies most vulnerable.”
Reports can be made to Police Scotland on 101, a local social work office or to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.