A home help who stole the life savings of an elderly patient who had treated her like a daughter has been jailed for six months.
Londonderry woman Susan Margaret Lorraine Crawford was also sentenced to 12 months probation after pleading guilty to 28 charges of stealing the money from the 84-year-old woman.
The 53-year-old, from The Woodlands area of Culmore, appeared in the dock at Derry Crown Court yesterday for the brief sentencing by Judge Piers Grant.
Earlier this week Crawford pleaded guilty to taking the money, which totalled £12,800, from her patient’s post office savings account between June 2008 and January 2009.
Crawford stole the money to fund her gambling addiction, and is currently paying back £100 a month to the elderly victim.
At a hearing earlier this week, Judge Grant said the injured party had trusted Crawford like her own child and had made her a signatory to her savings account. He said Crawford’s actions were “a betrayal of trust, cruel and mean”, and had left the elderly woman with difficulties in trusting anyone.
Another home help discovered and reported the theft of money, leading police to investigate the matter.
The custodial sentence was welcomed by campaigners for the elderly and detectives who worked on the case.
Gary Fitzgerald, chief executive of the charity Action On Elder Abuse, which operates across the UK and Ireland, said: “It is good news to get a prison sentence in this case as one of the worries we have is that too often in situations like this the person who has committed the crime ends up with community service rather than a prison sentence.”
Mr Fitzgerald said the incident would have had a very traumatic impact on the elderly victim.
“It is not just the stealing of money, it’s the breach of trust as well, and in this case the elderly woman was devastated,” he said.
“I have known cases of older people who died from the impact of the shock, the shame, the embarrassment of what happened to them.”
A senior PSNI officer who investigated the case, acting Detective Chief Inspector Mark McClarence, said: “I think this sends out a clear message that we have got to protect the vulnerable in our community.”
Anyone seeking further information about the issues raised by this case can check out the website www.edlerabuse.org.uk or contact the Action On Elder Abuse helpline on 080 8808 8141.