But nothing prepared Britain’s oldest woman for the terror of being targeted in her own home by a violent career criminal.
Grace Jones had just celebrated her 112th birthday when Jesse Coker burst into her flat. He kicked her door down and shoved her against a wall as he rifled her handbag, snatching £100 in cash.
Yesterday, after he was jailed for four and a half years, it emerged that Coker was on licence at the time for a series of burglaries in which he preyed on the elderly.
The 46-year-old has 16 convictions for 48 burglaries dating back to the age of ten. Yet he was let out in May 2009 after serving half of a seven-year sentence despite the risk of him reoffending
Miss Jones, who was born on December 7, 1899, became the oldest living person in Britain in February this year.
The former seamstress, who lost her 19-year-old fiancé Albert Rees during the First World War, now lives alone in the area which has become a magnet for crime. Woolwich Crown Court heard that five days before her birthday, an unidentified thief entered her home and stole her £300 pension.
The next day Coker attempted to break-in by posing as a parcel delivery man but her neighbour Matthew Maddigan, 31, chased him off after the brave pensioner told Coker to ‘hop it’.
Then on January 24, Miss Jones answered a knock at the door to find Coker posing as a policeman.
Vivian Walters, prosecuting, said: ‘Miss Jones went to the door and called out “Who’s there?” ‘She was expecting the district nurse to visit her that day in order to change a dressing on her leg.
‘She heard no reply so she opened the door a crack. He pushed the door open, barged past Mrs Jones and made his way into the flat.’
When the trembling victim followed him into the living room, Coker pushed her against the wall.
He grabbed her purse, which contained £100 as well as other treasured items including a four leaf clover she kept for luck, before leaving her crumpled on the floor.
Mr Maddigan confronted Coker outside having recognised him, but the thug threatened to stab them, snarling: ‘I’ve got a tool and I will hurt you.’
The neighbour said: ‘I was just so shocked to see the same guy back again. I heard someone ring Grace’s doorbell and opened the door to make sure everything was alright.
‘I heard Grace say “What are you doing” and “Get off me” so I rushed downstairs.
‘I confronted him. I just wanted him to stop and tried to get in his way. He said he had a knife and was going to stab me. He kept saying he was going to kill me.’