Thief Sean Earle, who was branded a “scumbag” and a “low-life” for stealing a woman’s handbag after she fell to her death from a motorway bridge in Eccles, Salford, has been jailed for six months.
Earle, 27, of Treveylan Court in Eccles, pleaded guilty to taking Linda Clarke’s handbag but denied having any part in her death.
The officer in charge of the case, Detective Inspector Alan Clitherow, said Earle’s actions were “callous beyond belief”.
Mrs Clarke’s husband Gary, 58, struggled to tell Manchester Crown Court at an earlier hearing how it had affected the family, including how Linda’s funeral was delayed by the theft.
“I find it extremely difficult to find the right words to explain how devastated the loss of my wife Linda has impacted on the whole family,” he said.
Mrs Clarke, 55, had walked out of Salford Royal Hospital around an hour before the incident on Friday 17 April on the M602 motorway bridge on Albert Road in Eccles.
CCTV caught Earle on camera following her and briefly talking to her as she sat on the edge of the bridge. It showed him looking on as she fell 50ft onto the carriageway below.
The mother-of-three tragically died shortly after.
The court heard in June that Earle had made no effort to call 999 and instead “saw his moment of opportunity” to make off with Mrs Clarke’s handbag.
Her £350 iPhone and other personal items were found at his flat on arrest.
British Transport Police officers searched the area around Eccles station as part of a major investigation into the death.
Detective Inspector Clitherow said: “What possessed Sean Earle to run off with this lady’s handbag moments after seeing her fall onto the side of the motorway we’ll never know, but it would have been clear to anyone that a fall from such a height would result in severe injury or death.
“Not to make any effort to contact the emergency services or show any regard for her welfare is callous beyond belief.
“It is only by chance that a member of the public who had seen the two talking called paramedics and the police – without this witness it is entirely possible given the time of night that we wouldn’t have been alerted for some time.
“The lady’s family have been supported by specially trained officers and have been appraised of the investigation throughout.”
A Coroner’s inquest into Mrs Clarke’s death is due to take place in October 2015.