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Care worker who robbed dying woman of over £1,000 given 10 month jail sentence

By Nevin Farrell

A family has welcomed the 10-month jail term given to an unrepentant home help who stole up to £1,500 from their dying 87-year-old mother.

Phyllis Peacock (57) was caught when Josephine Lagan's family installed a 'nanny cam' which showed her lifting the pensioner's purse.

Peacock was freed on bail of £900 to appeal.

Relatives of Lagan, who lived at Davison Villas in Castledawson before she passed away just before Christmas in 2014, attended Ballymena Magistrates Court yesterday to see Peacock sentenced.

The court heard that Peacock, of Ballymacombs Road, Portglenone, continues to deny her guilt.

Mrs Lagan's son, Eugene Lagan (62) said he was disgusted at her lack of remorse, but said if she loses her job it will mean she will be unable to "inflict her evil on another old person".

Mr Lagan added: "My mother was only five stone and after the doctor told us in November 2014 she had only a very short time to live, Phyllis came back in that evening and cried and kissed her. I think she was crying because there was no more money.

"She took money after being told my mother was dying."

At an earlier contest hearing in Magherafelt, Peacock was found guilty of stealing cash from Mrs Lagan between the start of 2014 and December 9 that year. Mrs Lagan passed away on December 21, 2014.

A prosecutor said the late Mrs Lagan was "bed bound" at home and was receiving care from home helps, including Peacock.

Mrs Lagan kept her purse close by when she was in bed and in 2014 family members began to suspect that money was being taken.

They installed a camera, and on December 8 that year, footage revealed Peacock entering a room and lifting a purse and opening it. She then left with it after a colleague approached before returning the purse to a bedside table. It was later discovered the purse had been "interfered with" and a total sum estimated at between £1,200 and £1,500 was stolen over a period of more than 11 months.

The prosecutor said the matter was reported to the police by social services the following day.

When interviewed, Peacock, who had a previously clear criminal record, denied the offence.

After the sentencing, Mrs Lagan's son, Eugene, who is from Ballyronan, said: "We are happy enough with the sentence but a wee bit disappointed that she is going to appeal it and we will maybe have to go through this all again.

"We hope she loses her job so she can't do this on anybody else again, that she can't inflict her evil on another old person.

"We are disappointed she showed no remorse, we are disgusted at that.

"She didn't care about our mother, all she cared about was stealing money from her. She was seen.

"When the judge looked at it on a 40-inch screen in Magherafelt Court it showed you her searching through the bed, taking the purse, opening it and then when her colleague came behind her she ran away with it and then she came back and set it nicely back again.

"In the video she rubbed my mother's head and said: 'Are you all right wee Josie? Give me a wee smile' but she was searching the bed and as soon as she found the purse she stopped talking. It was really disgusting."

Mr Lagan said Peacock had been caring for his mother for over a year.

"We think she took the purse in front our mother and didn't care if she seen it or not.

"My mother was a quiet woman who liked going out to bingo. She had lived there for years and never caused anybody any trouble.

"We suspected money was being taken and then started taking notes of which carer was in the house. It became a common denominator that Phyllis Peacock was always there and then we decided we would set up a camera and caught her the first day. She worked for the Northern Health Trust and was off for a week's holiday and came back in that day.

"This whole thing overshadowed our mother's final days.

"We were running to police stations and giving statements, it was terrible what we went through."

Jailing Peacock for 10 months, District Judge Peter King said it was a difficult case for a whole raft of reasons.

He praised the "great dignity of the family of the late Mrs Lagan" which he said stood in stark contrast to the attitude Peacock had maintained.

He told her: "It appears you wish to maintain your innocence".

Judge King said there had been "harrowing nanny cam footage" of the family's frail and dying mother suffering a theft.

He said the family should be proud of the steps they had taken to discharge their obligation to their mother which meant they were getting "a measure of justice".

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