Care worker preyed on vulnerable patient

A care home worker who preyed on “the most vulnerable victim imaginable” was yesterday jailed for stealing thousands of pounds from a wheelchair-bound mentally ill patient.

A care home worker who preyed on “the most vulnerable victim imaginable” was yesterday jailed for stealing thousands of pounds from a wheelchair-bound mentally ill patient.

Louise Risebrow's own defence counsel described her actions as “mean and despicable” after she admitted stealing £6,000 from the bank account of a 45-year-old who suffers from schizophrenia and emphysema and has the mental capacity of a young boy.

The 32-year-old, of Lynwood Road, Cromer, was an administrative worker at the Elsenham nursing home in the town when she took the money from patient Colin Brooks' bank account.

She was caught out after another member of staff opened Mr Brooks' bank statement and saw his life savings had been almost cleared out, leaving little more than £100.

The sums taken varied from £300 on March 10 at Cromer to £100 on June 16 at Sheringham. She used different cash machines across the country possibly in an attempt to avoid detection.

In court she offered no explanation for why she had taken the money and initially attempted to cover up her crimes by saying the money had disappeared as a result of a banking error.

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Risebrow pleaded guilty to six counts of theft at Norwich Crown Court and asked for a further 43 offences between March and June last year to be taken into account. Sentencing her to four months in prison, Recorder Guy Ayers said it was only her previous good deeds which had saved her from a more lengthy term.

Yesterday managers at the nursing home refused to comment but Risebrow has now repaid the money in full. The EDP understands systems have been put in place to stop such offences happening in future.

Prosecutor Nick Methold said: “The defendant had access to the bank account details of patients at the care home where she worked. Mr Brooks was unable to move without a wheelchair and the assistant of a member of staff and never goes out alone.

“A member of staff noticed that amounts far and away above what would be needed for his daily needs had been taken from his account. Ms Risebrow insisted there must have been a mistake but later CCTV footage of her making a withdrawal from Mr Brooks' account from an ATM machine emerged.”

Katharine Moore, defending, said Risebrow “clearly committed consistently mean and despicable offences”. “Since these offences came to light she has found it particularly difficult to explain how as a seemingly respectable member of society she preyed on a particularly vulnerable patient,” she added.

“Her family have condemned her for this but she is a lady who is capable of doing her utmost to right the wrongs she has caused.”

The court heard mother-of-two Risebrow has participated in a wide-range of voluntary activities over many years and was of previous good character.

Mr Ayers said: “You were employed as an administrator and one of the residents was wheelchair-bound and suffered from significant mental difficulties.

“It is difficult to imagine a more vulnerable victim than the one that you selected and you milked his bank account until it was almost empty. As your counsel quite rightly says, this was mean and despicable and you persisted in it over many months.

“However, it is quite clear that you have done good work over and above that of a normal person and I take that into account.”