A twisted pensioner who put a 91-year-old great-grandmother through a two-day court ordeal by denying he had sexually assaulted her was jailed for three-and-a-half years today.
Eric 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.
She said Fleming had visited her on July 30 last year and stripped off in her downstairs living room where she had a bed.
Her voice shook as she said: “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.
Today, 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 instucted: “Take him away.”
During the trial, Falkirk Council worker Linda Pauley said she and a colleague had heard a door slamming as soon as they entered the old lady’s house.
They realised there was a man in her room and found Fleming naked to the waist, pulling on his trousers.
Ms Pauley 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.