03/08/2012 09:16 BST | Updated 03/08/2012 11:39 BST

Mark Royle Sentenced To 28 Years For Murder Of Pensioner Nellie Geraghty

A homeless drug addict has been sentenced to a minimum of 28 years for the murder of pensioner Nellie Geraghty, 79, after he mugged her and left her lying facedown in an alleyway.

Mark Royle, 32, attacked Geraghty and stole her handbag in Oldham in November of last year. Geraghty desperately fought to keep hold of the bag as it contained the ashes of her husband.

She was found by passersby with the broken strap still in her hand.

mark royle

Mark Royle will serve a minimum of 28 years

During the attack Geraghty suffered serious head injuries and later died in hospital of a heart attack caused by the stress of the attack.

Royle, a drug addict of no fixed abode, was charged and found guilty of murder and robbery at Manchester Crown Court.

In a prepared statement, Geraghty's family said: "It has been a very difficult eight months for us all.

"Sadly, the death of Nellie has brought the village of Shaw to the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. However, we were overwhelmed by the response from the local community and general public.

"Nellie was a very active, independent 79 year old lady who lived her life to the full. She had lots of friends and was very popular. Her life was so tragically cut short and she was taken from us before her time.

mark royle

Geraghty's handbag which was stolen in the attack

"We have been left completely devastated by what this man has done to Nellie. It has left a very big empty space in all of our lives.

"The only comforting thought to us is that Nellie is now back together with her beloved Frank."