Woman stole £78,000 from mother-in-law with dementia

Sharon Bruce, who stole £78,000 from her mother-in-law, had five years of unopened mail at her home

Sharon Bruce, who stole £78,000 from her mother-in-law, had five years of unopened mail at her home Photo: Ella Wilkinson - Credit: Archant

A woman in her 90s with dementia could not buy essentials like toiletries because her daughter-in-law stole £78,000 from her bank account to pay for things including gambling.

Norwich Crown Court heard the woman, who was living in a care home, had to rely on the kindness of others as Sharon Bruce's dishonesty deprived her of her £24-a-week living expenses.

Bruce, 56, was found with five years of unopened mail at her home when her crimes came to light as she "buried her head in the sand".

The court heard the money was stolen between January 2015 and April 2018.

Martin Ivory, prosecuting, said it was money the victim, who was well into her 90s, "could ill afford to lose".

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Bruce, formerly of Rainsthorpe, South Wootton, near King's Lynn appeared in court on Thursday (November 28) for sentence, having previously admitted theft.

Edward Renvoize, mitigating, said it was a "very sad case" but accepted she had acted "very dishonestly".

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He said this was a woman who lost her husband a number of years ago but "never seemed to have been able to bounce back in a meaningful way and took solace In rather inappropriate coping mechanisms".

He said outwardly all appeared to be normal with Bruce but inwardly he described the defendant as being "in turmoil" with mail that had not been opened for five years found at her home.

He said Bruce, who had been a guarantor for the victim, had since sold her house in order to pay back the money that had been taken and was now staying with her daughter, who was now in charge of her finances.

The court heard that the money that had been stolen by Bruce could now be paid back to the victim.

Judge Maureen Bacon said Bruce had "siphoned off a large quantity of money" from the victim who had been unable to fend for herself financially.

But Judge Bacon accepted Bruce had been remorseful and, having agreed to pay back the money, said she could impose a sentence of 24 months custody suspended for 22 months.

She was also ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work and 30 days rehabilitation activity. Bruce has 28 days to pay back the money or serve one month in custody.

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