A man who stole around £60,000 from his vulnerable, elderly father-in-law, was yesterday jailed for four years by a judge who said that it was a serious “breach of trust.”

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Colin Bloom, 46, was meant to be looking after Richard George Richards, known as George, when he stole tens of thousands of pounds from his account over a five-year period.

Norwich Crown Court heard how Mr Richards, a retired prison officer, who was in a wheelchair after he suffered a severe stroke, had moved in with Colin Bloom and his wife Dawn, in 2003, after he was widowed.

When Mr Richards died in December 2010, aged 79, he had just £400 left in his account. and thousands of pounds had been systematically withdrawn from his account by Colin Bloom who was said to have used Mr Richards bank account as if it was his own.

Colin Bloom, of St John’s Way, Thetford, had denied theft, claiming that the money had been spent on Mr Richards welfare but he was convicted following a trial.

His wife Dawn Bloom, 41, of Cider Court, Banham, was also charged with theft, but she was cleared after the jury heard she had no idea that cash withdrawals had been made from her father’s account. The couple are now separated and the court heard that Colin Bloom now has a new partner.

Jailing Bloom, Judge Mark Lucraft accepted that he had genuinely cared for Mr Richards and had helped improve the quality of his life but said it was a serious breach of trust: “You treated his bank account as if it was your own.”

He said that Mr Richards got a good pension and his needs were modest, but said that Bloom had taken large sums from his account making withdrawals amounting to £55,000 to £60.000.

He said that there was some suggestion of Bloom spending money on gambling which he had denied but Judge Lucraft said: “It seems highly likely that the money you took from Mr Richards has gone on some form of addiction and was not funding an expensive lifestyle.”

He added: “You were trusted by the family.”

After the case, Det Con Gemma Weeks, of the adult investigation unit who led the investigation, said: “The systematic draining of an elderly relative’s bank account is an extreme abuse of trust. This was an abhorrent crime which was rightfully reported to us so that it could be investigated extensively.”

A statement from the Richards statement said: “The jury was meticulous in listening to the evidence and returned a verdict of guilty for Colin Bloom and not guilty for our sister Dawn Bloom, we believe that was the right verdict and we thank them for their diligence.

“This verdict in no way diminishes the standard of personal care provided to our father during the last seven years of his life, this standard of personal care was never in question.

“As a family we can now move on from this very difficult time.”

The family thanked Det Con Weeks and her colleagues for their “professionalism and diligence and support” and also the Crown Prosecution Service and the Crown Court Witness Service.

Andrew Shaw, for Bloom, told the court he accepted it was a serious breach of trust , but said that he did care for Mr Richards and improve his quality of life.

“He did care for Mr Richards over a very long time.”

He said that Bloom now had a new partner, who was expecting his child and said that any time in custody would hard on her and his mother who relied on him for support.

A confiscation hearing to try to recover some of the stolen cash will be held in February next year.

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