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Pensioner gave us her money to pay debts, trial told
A MAN accused of stealing an ailing pensioner's life savings told a jury that he and his wife had debts of up to £70,000 at the time.
Andrew Reeve said he asked the 91-year-old if they could borrow money to meet a missed mortgage payment on their £220,000 home.
He said the pensioner - his wife's godmother - was also told some of the loan would be used to reduce credit card debts in early 2009.
Although they asked if they could borrow the money, Mr Reeve admitted they would not have paid it back unless the woman asked for it.
The 55-year-old engineering firm purchaser and his wife Lesley, 56, are on trial at Teesside Crown Court accused of four charges of theft.
They are alleged to have stolen more than £90,000 of the woman's savings as well as pension, winter fuel allowance and rent from her home.
The couple, of Chichester Close, Hartlepool, claimed after their arrest they had her permission to spend as much as they wanted.
Mr Reeve told the court yesterday (Friday, August 9) that they also planned to convert their garage into a bedroom so the pensioner could move in with them.
The conversion actually contains a gym and wet room, but he said he was advised by a builder he stood a better chance of gaining planning consent.
He said the pensioner showed him and his wife her will, and said: "It's there in black and white, you're going to get it all."
Mr Reeve said: "She said 'I would like to see you get the benefit of that while I'm alive' . . . it was mind-blowing, really.
"She was not even a blood relative, a lovely woman, leaving everything she had and everything she had worked for to us."
Asked by his barrister, Paul Abrahams, whether the money they initially asked for was a loan or a gift, he seemed to change his mind.
"We would have expressed it as a loan, but not necessarily to be paid back," he said. "She didn't say she wanted paying back.
"Our understanding was that she had given us the money to help us with our financial situation. It was left at that."
The court heard the couple, who deny all the charges, used the money to convert the garage at their four-bed detached home.
Credit card debts of more than £13,000 were wiped out, a car was bought for their son, and a new sofa and kitchen were purchased.
The trial continues.