7/7 widow jailed for theft from son
The widow of a 7/7 bombing victim has been jailed after stealing £43,000 from her son's compensation.
Louise Gray, 42, spent £250,000 of her own compensation money before she "betrayed" her son Adam and plundered his fund, Ipswich Crown Court heard.
Adam was just 11 years old when his father, accountant Richard Gray, 41, was one of 52 people killed in the 2005 London bombings as he travelled to work.
After pleading guilty to theft last month, Gray showed no emotion in the dock as she was jailed for two years and eight months today.
Judge David Goodin told her: "The offence you have committed against your son, the trust you betrayed - a second hammer blow following the death of his father - is so serious it can only be met by a custodial sentence.
"The theft of £43,000 is one thing. The theft of £43,000 by a parent from a young adult's trust is quite another, when that sum represented most - practically all - the compensation he received for his father's tragic death.
"It's an act of wickedness almost beyond belief. He has lost not one parent, but two.
"The loss of a father in any circumstances, particularly in such violent circumstances, would have been a grievous blow to an 11-year-old Adam. Nobody would have known that better than you."
Mr Gray was killed by suicide bomber Shehzad Tanweer on a Circle line Underground train. The court heard his widow received around £250,000 in compensation following his death. It included £160,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority, while more than £50,000 was awarded to their son, Adam, and a reported £100,000 to his younger sister.
The children's money was placed in trust until their 18th birthdays, but Adam gave his cash to his mother to look after when he turned 18. When he arranged to meet her in November 2013 to ask for the money because he was looking to buy a property, she confessed she had spent it, the court was told.
Adam took civil action to try to recover the cash and his mother was ordered by a county court judge to repay him the £43,000. He also reported the matter to police and she was prosecuted for theft.
Mother-of-three Gray, from Ipswich, admitted at a hearing last month to stealing the cash between July 2012 and November 2013. The court heard that Gray had offered to pay her son £10,000 followed by further monthly payments but the offer had been rejected.
Prosecutor Michael Crimp told the hearing that Gray texted her son at Christmas 2013 saying that what she had done was "so wrong and disgusting". She also sent him a message which read: "If you prosecute me, I will lose you. I can't face that."
She also expressed fears about having a tumour which were "unfounded", the barrister added. "To him it seemed like a guilt trip," Mr Crimp said. "The effect was, as far as he was concerned, emotional blackmail on him."
In mitigation, barrister Richard Conley said Gray's son felt "palpable anger" towards her and her attempts to repay the money had been "rebuffed".
Mr Conley said: '"This is a case which is rooted in tragic circumstances which came about when a terrorist detonated a bomb on the Circle line.
"His assault destroyed the lives of countless others in ways he and his co-conspirators could never have imagined."
The barrister also denied Gray had "frittered away" the money following reports that she had used her own compensation to pay for clothes, cars and luxury holidays. "She was living in a situation where she simply couldn't work ... paying the ordinary annual amount to meet the cost of living, in the region of £30,000 or thereabouts," he said.
Gray was supported in court by her partner, Umar Shamshoom, who is the father of her three-year-old daughter. With dyed blonde hair and wearing a purple top, she showed no emotion throughout the hearing.
Adam was not in court for his mother's sentencing. Judge Goodin said Gray would serve half of her sentence in custody before being released on licence.