Belfast Telegraph

Carer stole OAP's £1,200 life savings and wired it to a con man in Nigeria

By George Jackson

A health care assistant who stole over £1,200 from an 88-year-old woman with dementia has avoided a prison term.

Sandra McDaid (55), from Ballynarrig Road in Limavady, was handed a four-month sentence, suspended for 18 months, at Londonderry Magistrates Court yesterday. It came after she admitted stealing the cash from her patient's post office savings account.

McDaid pleaded guilty to five charges of theft by an employee. She committed the offences on various dates last December.

A solicitor for the Public Prosecution Service told District Judge Barney McElholm that last December 11 the victim's daughter reported to the police that her mother's post office savings card was missing, and that £1,219.72 had been taken from the account between December 7 and December 11.

The solicitor said the money stolen was the victim's life savings.

Police investigations led to McDaid, and after she was arrested she made full admissions and expressed deep remorse for her offences.

Defence barrister Stephen Mooney said his client's offending was egregious and was a breach of trust case involving an 88-year-old vulnerable woman.

He said the truth behind McDaid's offending was stranger than fiction. "She had been on Facebook and had been contacted by an individual in Nigeria who was not known to her," he told the court.

"He was very nefarious and told her he required money because he had a child who needed a blood transfusion.

"Out of her own pocket she wire-transferred £1,000 into his account.

"Several months later she received a second similar communication from the same individual.

"She had no money and she fell into the temptation to take the victim's money and send it to him.

"The police were understandably cynical about her story but during their investigations they recovered some documentation which verified her excuses."

Mr Mooney said that after the thefts were discovered McDaid's employment contract was immediately terminated.

He said his client lived in a rural environment where wildly inaccurate rumours of the amount she had stolen had been circulating. He added that McDaid's previous good standing in the community was now effectively in ruins.

The barrister said that, as part of their investigation, the police also interviewed family members of other clients of McDaid's, and they were satisfied that there were no other victims. Mr Mooney explained that some of those other family members had given McDaid character references, and he added that his client had brought full restitution to court with her.

The District Judge said the defendant, who had no previous convictions, had totally believed a con man.

"This con man was out to extricate the maximum amount of money from her through spinning her such a sad and untruthful story. Those of us of a more cynical disposition would not have swallowed such a story," he said.

Mr McElholm said it would serve no purpose to send McDaid to prison. As well as suspending the jail sentence, he also gave her four weeks to repay the money she had stolen in full.

Belfast Telegraph

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