The Teesside couple who plundered the life savings of an elderly lady - until there was nothing left (From The Northern Echo)
For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
The Teesside couple who plundered the life savings of an elderly lady - until there was nothing left
A couple who fleeced a godmother out of her life-savings are staring at jail sentences. NEIL HUNTER covered their trial and examines the evidence.
IN many ways, it was the perfect crime - a victim unable to speak out, and, ultimately, in no position to give evidence against the perpetrators.
How could a jury be sure she had not given her god-daughter and her husband permission to spend all she had saved during a long and frugal life?
Calculating and cold, Lesley and Andrew Reeve systematically raided the savings accounts of the dementia suffering pensioner until there was nothing left.
When alarm bells rang with staff who were looking after the OAP in a care home and with council social workers, the couple had their defence ready-made.
Their ailing victim was so unwell she could not testify in court or give any meaningful statement to the police to say she had given no such permission.
Throughout their evidence, the couple referred to the pensioner as "aunty" and tried to convince the jury that they would always put her needs first.
The £5,000 garage conversion - into a wet room and gym with exercise equipment - was for the 91-year-old wheelchair-user, they continually insisted.
They had asked her if she would move in with them - her only real 'family' - and she was "ecstatic", according to former receptionist Mrs Reeve, 46.
They wanted to create a downstairs bedroom in their garage and claimed they were talked into submitting plans for a gym and wet room by their builder.
That, they insisted they had been told, stood more chance of being given approval by officials than a granny flat which is what it was going to be.
The only problem was the plans were for a gym, the workmen created a gym, and it was a gym with treadmill and exercise ball when police visited.
The lies began to unravel in court when Mr Reeve, 55, admitted their expenditure "didn't look good" compared to the pensioner's austere lifestyle.
The Reeves lived a seemingly comfortable life in their four-bed detached property while her godmother's care home room had no personal effects.
They spent almost £100,000 from her bank accounts and pension in just two years while the OAP was sometimes left with pennies in her pocket money.
Staff looking after the frail victim sometimes had to subsidise her weekly £5 haircuts while god-daughter Reeve spent £50 a time on her salon visits.
The couple converted the garage of their £220,000 home to create the gym and wet room, bought a car, a new kitchen, sofa and huge telly and paid off debts.
When she asked for some photographs to be taken in to personalise her sparse room, the pensioner's pleas for simple pleasures were ignored by the Reeves.
A similar request for a pair of earrings went unanswered, and the care home manager went shopping to buy a pair of gold hoops and a wooden jewellery box.
The prosecution was sure nobody would deliberately leave themself penniless just for the joy of watching close friends benefit from their money.
It was ludicrous she chose to be unable to meet care home bills and pay for simple luxuries like haircuts and toiletries while the Reeves spent her savings at a rate of £2,500 a month.
The pensioner was never able to give he account because of her condition, so the jury had to decide with a valuable piece of evidence missing.
After deliberating for two minutes short of seven hours, the panel of seven women an five men returned five unanimous guilty verdicts from eight charges.
Proceedings had to be delayed for ten minutes while security staff dealt with Mrs Reeve after she collapsed into a heap on the floor of the dock.
She and her husband were allowed bail until they return to Teesside Crown Court to be sentenced by Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, late next month.
After the case, Detective Inspector Dave Turnbull from the Cleveland Police economic crime unit said: “Today’s result has brought a satisfactory conclusion to the first stage of what has proven to be a very difficult investigation.
"As the victim was unable to give evidence, it had to be proved by other means and credit for this must go to the investigating officer, Detective Constable Rachel Graham.
“Mr and Mrs Reeve took full advantage of a vulnerable lady and have spent her money entirely for their own benefit, which has left the victim with little left. We will now commence and investigation to recover the proceeds of the crime.”
A council spokesman said: "Hartlepool Council is committed to protecting vulnerable people in the local community, and this includes the identification of financial and property abuse.
"Our staff have worked extremely hard on this cad, and we welcome today's verdict."
Comments are closed on this article.