An elderly couple have been forced to live apart for the first time in more than 60 years of marriage after a carer took £20,000 from their bank accounts.
Rodney and Lily Crowder trusted Caroline Davis so much they gave her their bank cards and the PINs to their accounts so that she could withdraw cash to do their shopping.
But the carer, who got to know the Crowders when she became Lily’s hairdresser, started to take out extra money which she pocketed for herself.
The amounts grew and grew and the elderly couple had no idea what was happening with Rodney (84), a retired British Rail worker, spending most of his time looking after 81- year-old Lily at their home in Spalding, after she had suffered a stroke.
It was not until Mr Crowder suffered a fall in June 2012 and was diagnosed with dementia and admitted to a care home that the fraud was discovered.
Social services placed a charge on the family home to cover his fees and initially the family were able to pay for Lily to stay with him for a few weeks, but she then returned home when the money ran out.
As a result, Lily is now faced with a £40 taxi journey to see her husband at his care home in Boston and their home will have to be sold.
At Lincoln Crown Court, Davis (38), of Newlands Road, Surfleet, was jailed for six months after she admitted fraud between November 2011 and July 2013.
Recorder Gareth Evans QC, passing sentence at Lincoln Crown Court, ordered the confiscation of £20,000 of her assets which is to be repaid to the Crowders as compensation.
Recorder Evans told Davis: “What you did was wicked. You plundered the bank accounts of two elderly people who trusted you.
“People of that age are very vulnerable. You must have realised that when you started taking the money.
“The effect on the Crowders has been immense. In their last years together they have been separated.
“There are too many people ripping off old people in this country. People must start to realise that if they come before the court the almost inevitable sentence for this sort of offence is immediate custody.”
Davis forged cheques drawn on the couple’s bank accounts to pay herself over £11,000 in addition to thousands more she pocketed from cash withdrawals made at ATMs.
Michael Cranmer-Brown, prosecuting, said that the Crowders relied on Davis to do their shopping, cleaning and pay their bills.
After Rodney was admitted to the care home Davis continued to help Lily but the couple’s son Rod checked their bank accounts and realised that large sums of cash had been removed. He also discovered that cheque books were missing.
Police were contacted and when Davis was arrested she confessed saying she began take £40 a week intending to pay the money back but never got round to doing so and just took more and more.
Mr Cranmer-Brown said: “She did the cleaning and the shopping for them and generally helped them.
“She was trusted and liked. She was seen as an extended member of the family and was entrusted with their bank cards and their PINs. This had been the situation some time prior to Mr Crowder being admitted to hospital and continued afterwards.
“This has caused devastation to the family. They feel betrayed.
“The distress has been immeasurable and on-going and has contributed to their deterioration. The emotional impact is immense.”
Nick Bleaney, defending, said: “It started off as borrowing with the intent to repay the money but the financial pressure on her increased because her husband’s work had placed him on short time and his wages went down. It went unnoticed and when it all adds up the figure is alarming.”
The Crowders’ son Rod (56), of Crawley, Sussex, whose investigations into their financial affairs uncovered the thefts, said: “This woman was wicked. I had no idea this was happening. We trusted her almost as family. She even came to my parents’ 60th wedding anniversary party.
“Mum and dad should be together. This is the first time they’ve really been apart since they’ve been married and when the compensation comes through we will make sure they are together in the same care home, but the house will have to be sold. It has been absolutely traumatic for our family.”