Withycombe woman stole £30,000 from war hero, 92
PUBLISHED: 09:00 14 April 2016
A woman from Withycombe Raleigh has been jailed after stealing £30,000 from a 92-year-old war hero from Exmouth who she befriended while cleaning his house.
Susan Campbell carried on visiting the vulnerable pensioner when her role was taken over by a care company - and she stole money after offering to do his shopping.
Campbell, 47, of Moorfield Road, admitted fraud and was jailed for 15 months by Judge Graham Cottle.
Exeter Crown Court heard how Campbell registered herself with Devon County Council as being in charge of the pensioner’s financial affairs; she emptied his bank account, leaving him £45 overdrawn.
She intercepted his mail so he had no idea his savings had dwindled from £12,500 to almost nothing and stole money from his state and war pensions quicker than it was paid in.
The court heard Campbell was desperate for money because she was in debt to payday lenders and feared her Exmouth council house would be repossessed because of £1,000 rent arrears.
Her thefts left her victim angry, distressed and confused, the court was told.
Judge Cottle, passing sentence, told Campbell: “Your visits to him were informal and you fell under the radar. You became very familiar with his financial situation and completed a form for him from Devon County Council.
“For a considerable period of time, you were using his bank card to obtain significant amounts of cash on a very regular basis. Some was used for his shopping, but the majority was going into your pocket.
“There is no evidence you were living a lavish lifestyle; quite the opposite, you had rent arrears and owed money.
“This was a gross breach of the trust that was placed on you to look after and help him. You repaid it by stealing in the region of £30,000.
“He has written a victim impact statement which says he is totally distraught. He says he used to enjoy your company and has been caused considerable grief by finding out how you broke that trust.
“He says he has been caused anxiety and upset and it has knocked his trust in people. It has left him feeling very confused. He is angry and says he wants the money repaid.”
Mr Sean Brunton, prosecuting, said Campbell first met the war veteran in 2009 when she was employed by Age Concern to clean his flat in Exmouth for an hour a week.
He suffered a fall in 2011 and then needed a much higher level of care which was provided by a local company. Campbell ceased to be his cleaner, but carried out visiting him and helped him with his shopping.
He gave her his bank card, which she returned after each visit. He did not see any bank statements and had no idea she was stealing large amounts of money. The thefts carried on from 2011 to 2014.
His withdrawals rose from around £300 a month to £3,000 cash in some months and almost his entire savings were wiped out, meaning there was not enough for him to pay his contributions to Devon County Council for his care.
The council wrote 10 letters warning him, but they were sent to Campbell because she had registered herself with them as a friend who was helping him with his finances.
The thefts only came to light when the last letter was sent to her at his address and he opened it to find he was £900 in arrears. He told his family, who took him to the bank and called in the police.
The bank discovered that the card which the pensioner handed to Campbell each time she did his shopping had expired years before. Campbell had intercepted the new card and kept it for her own use.
Mr Brunton said the victim was very careful about money and never spent more than the income he received through his pensions.
He said: “When his daughter took him to the bank, he was incredulous that there had been so many withdrawals. He was left with an overdraft of £45. Since these offences came to light, he has been able to build up his savings again.”
Mr Paul Grumbar, defending, said Campbell was desperate for money to pay off doorstep and payday loans and stave off eviction. She worked as a school dinner lady, teaching assistant and cleaner to try to make ends meet.
Mr Grumbar said: “She was repaying loans with exorbitant rates of interest.
“There was no lavish lifestyle. She was living in a council-owned two-up, two-down with her partner of 23 years and two daughters aged 18 and 20.
“She was a rather weak-minded lady who was put into this position for which she had no training at a time when she was subject to other pressures.”