Man jailed for stealing £23,000 from partner's mother to fund takeaways and petrol
PUBLISHED: 06:00 08 February 2020
Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk
A 58-year-old man exploited his "position of trust" to steal more than £20,000 from his partner's elderly mother.
Andrew Skelton, who hails from Wisbech, defrauded Patricia Harris of £23,500 between June 2016 and November 2018 while she suffered from dementia.
Mrs Harris, who was living in a care home in Heacham, did not realise her care bills were not being paid. She died in April 2019 at the age of 87.
On Friday, February 7, Norwich Crown Court was told Skelton had been in a "position of trust" with regards to managing Mrs Harris' finances, having been in a relationship with her daughter, Susan, for more than 40 years.
But, according to prosecution barrister Chris Youell, he "treated the money as his own and spent it on himself".
"The defendant was supposed to be managing Mrs Harris' account, but suspicions arose when she was not being visited and her money was not paying her care bills," he added.
Norfolk County Council raised concerns with police, who found Skelton had accessed Mrs Harris' bank account to make several cash withdrawals, as well as buy petrol, riding equipment and takeaways.
When the investigating officer interviewed Mr Skelton, he admitted he was the only person with access to the account and later pleaded guilty in court.
Defence barrister John Farmer, for Skelton, argued Mrs Harris' illness meant she was never aware of the wrongdoing and did not suffer as a consequence.
"The loser in this case has been Norfolk County Council because the care home fees were not paid," said Mr Farmer.
He highlighted the mental illness suffered by Susan Harris as a reason to spare Skelton a custodial sentence.
"Depression is a marked feature of her life and her 'rock' is the defendant," he added. "If left alone, she sees herself having huge difficulty in coping."
Despite acknowledging the potential impact on Susan Harris, Judge Andrew Shaw highlighted the need to deter similar offenders.
Sentencing Skelton to 18 months in jail, he said: "The people in cases like this are vulnerable to men like you.
"There need to be clear, deterrent sentences that show this will not be tolerated.
"You abused a position of trust and knew you would get away with it because she was such an easy target."
Susan Harris was found not guilty of any wrongdoing due to the prosecution offering no evidence.