TWO ‘cowardly’ robbers broke a woman’s arm in three places when they grabbed her handbag as she returned home from a cathedral concert.

Simon Aspinall and Hayden Carroll pounced on 52-year-old Mihaela-Cristina Mladin leaving her face-down in some bushes in agony.

The mother-of-one, speaking as the pair were jailed for more than five years each, said she was terrified as the attackers dragged her to the ground.

She said: “I wanted to kick them but they were faster than me and had more force than me.

“I was shouting at them, and I told them to give me my bag back, but they ran away.”

Aspinall, 24, and Carroll, 20, attacked the woman, who works as a quality coordinator at WEC, in Darwen, after the carol service on December 1 last year.

Miss Mladin described how she saw them coming towards her as she walked near Blackburn College around 8.10pm.


She said she thought they were joking because they were laughing, but started to feel scared as they got closer.

Miss Mladin, a volunteer at Blackburn Cathedral, said: “They were happy, chatting and laughing. I did not realise the danger.

“But then they separated in front of me.

“The guy on my left hand side pulled my bag. He dragged me down.”

After snatching Miss Mladin’s bag, which contained her passport, some cash, keys and mobile phone, the robbers ran off.

A passer-by chased after the attackers, but lost them near Montague Street.

Miss Mladin, who moved to the UK from Romania four years ago, suffered two breaks in her shoulder and another on her upper arm. She could not use her right hand, which she uses to write with, for weeks.

The victim, of Preston New Road, said she had been left permanently nervous about walking alone at night.

She said: “I am still watching my back and I am still looking over my shoulder.

“If I see anybody running behind me or if there is anybody coming towards me, I am still worried, which is not my nature.”

Aspinall, of Oakenhurst Road, and Carroll, of Vale Street, both Blackburn, were caught after a ‘vigilant’ binman spotted a handbag in a bin which he thought might have been stolen and told his supervisor.

Police found Miss Mladin’s mobile inside.

The pair pleaded guilty to robbing her. Preston Crown Court also heard how they robbed Bradley Smith, putting him into a headlock and forcing him to hand over his mobile phone as he walked home from a garage to buy cigarettes, just days before.

Mr Recorder Paul Taylor handed Aspinall a five-year nine-month jail term and Carroll, whose pregnant partner sobbed in the public gallery as the sentence was passed, five years and five months in a youth offenders institute.

The judge told them: “Robbery is using or threatening force in order to steal property and it is clear both of you were willing partners in these two offences.

“Happily, it appears likely Mrs Mladin has made a good recovery from that significant injury. I accept that you did not inflict the injury in order to commit the robbery. It was simply because of you were tugging at her handbag, bringing her to the ground and breaking her arm.

“I have no doubt she will remember what you did to her for the rest of her life.

“There were two of you. You were young, powerful men picking on a 51-year-old lady on her way home from a carol concert at night. You must have frightened the wits out of that lady.

“Mr Smith, you put him into a headlock. No doubt you caused him a great deal of pain.

“Both offences were cowardly.”

Speaking after the sentence, Det Sgt Tim McDermott said: “The sentences reflect the determination of both police and courts to send a message to those who commit such crimes, that they will not be tolerated. I would like to thank the victims and witnesses for their help and determination in seeing this through to the end.”