Belfast Telegraph

Home News UK

Pensioner who spent dementia-suffering friend's savings is spared jail

A pensioner who lavished thousands of pounds of her dementia-suffering friend's life savings on luxuries and gifts has walked free from court after being spared jail.

Ex-Samaritans volunteer Margaret Rigby, 80, bought treats after gaining power of attorney over widower Barbara Lewis's finances as she battled ill health.

Rigby spent the cash on meals out, weekly shopping, clearing credit card bills and gifts to herself, her daughter and her son-in-law, an ex-policeman.

Money was also spent by Rigby on flights, Take That tickets, cars, a caravan, as well as haircuts and a coffee machine at the expense of Mrs Lewis, who she had known for 40 years.

Rigby even bought a chicken coop, wrote cheques to herself and bought spectacles using her friend's money, which she described as "naughty".

Canterbury Crown Court heard that Mason and Inner Wheel member Rigby's reputation as a "pillar of the community" had been trashed by her fleecing of Mrs Lewis, who died in 2011.

Despite concerns from Mrs Lewis's son Nick, power of attorney was granted in 2003, enabling Rigby to take control over the proceeds of the sale of Mrs Lewis's home in the Midlands.

The court was told that Rigby - who had also volunteered for Victim Support - felt a sense of entitlement towards Mrs Lewis's money because of the amount of time she spent helping her.

Rigby, of Burnt Barn Cottages, Betteshanger, near Deal, Kent, was found guilty in October of fraud by abuse of position totalling around £57,000 between 2007 and 2011.

Sentencing, Recorder Deborah Charles told her: "On the one hand you showed great kindness to your friend, on the other you seemed to think the time and energy that you were putting in somehow entitled you to some benefit."

Handing her a two-year jail term suspended for 18 months, she said: "If you were 10 years younger and fitter I would have sent you straight to prison. I'm just persuaded that you should avoid doing so."

Rigby's daughter, ex-NHS manager Jayne MacDonald, 56, of the same address, was found guilty of two counts of acquiring criminal property, while son-in-law Allan MacDonald, 60, was found guilty of one count.

A tearful Jayne MacDonald was handed an 18 month sentence, suspended for 12 months, and Allan MacDonald, who used to work in the Coastguard service, got a 12 month sentence, suspended for 12 months.

As Mrs Lewis's son looked on in court, Recorder Charles added: "The three of you were intelligent people but you behaved in a wholly dishonest way."

She said that the fraud had deprived Mrs Lewis's son of family money which had been hard-earned by his late parents.

Rigby covered her face and made no comment to reporters as she left court separately from her daughter and son-in-law.

Outside court Mr Lewis, a management consultant, said his mother "would be turning in her grave" if she knew what had happened.

He told reporters: "Those three people abused my mum's trust, abused her vulnerability and abused the power given by the courts, and suspended sentences for them is very, very disappointing.

"I think they are despicable and disgraceful, and I hope they hold their heads in shame. They abused my mum. She would be turning in her grave if she knew what they had done.

"They have shown no remorse, they are not sorry for that they have done, they are sorry for being caught."


From Belfast Telegraph