"Remorseless" couple who fleeced a 91-year-old of her life savings to refurbish their home are jailed for two-and-a-half years (From The Northern Echo)
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"Remorseless" couple who fleeced a 91-year-old of her life savings to refurbish their home are jailed for two-and-a-half years
A WOMAN wept as she was branded "selfish, materialistic and utterly remorseless" and jailed for stealing her godmother's life-savings.
Lesley Reeve was locked up along with her husband Andrew for emptying the frail 91-year-old's bank accounts of £100,000 in just two years.
The couple claimed the pensioner gave them permission to spend her savings, and wanted to convert their home so she could live with them.
Yet, the work on the garage of their £220,000 property - said to be a bedroom for the woman - included a gym and a wet room, a court heard.
They were found guilty of joint theft charges after a nine-day trial last month, and were yesterday locked up for two-and-a-half years.
Jailing the money-grabbing pair, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, told them: "This was a gross breach of trust. She now has nothing left."
The thieving came to light when staff at the OAP's care home - which the Reeves had stopped visiting - raised concerns about her lack of money.
Andrew Reeve, 55, then turned up at the home with a solicitor in a desperate attempt to get power of attorney to get her former home.
Officials from Hartlepool Borough Council's social services department blocked the move after ruling the woman was not well enough to consent.
A detailed police investigation revealed that the couple had systematically raided the spinster's savings accounts and pension pot.
They had even pocketed the rent paid by a tenant they moved into the woman's former home, prosecutor Matthew Bean told Teesside Crown Court.
Paul Abrahams and Nigel Soppitt, mitigating, told the court that prison - in separate jails - would have a huge impact on the family.
Mr Abrahams said engineer Reeve had found the wait between the verdicts and the sentencing hearing "very difficult, indeed".
He added: "I have no doubt there will be a loss of employment, and when he is released there will be a difficulty he faces in not only dealing with everyday finances, because they will be limited, but also in employment."
Mr Soppitt said his 56-year-old wife now regrets "callously" abandoning her godmother - but insisted it was partly because of a fall-out with staff in the home.
"She has reflected on that and given her time again, she says she would have gone to the care home and seen her godmother on an almost daily basis," he said. "That is one of her most profound regrets in this case.
"The effect of prison is, of course, punishment and deterrent, but considering this and her impeccable character, one of the greatest punishments imposed upon this lady is the condemnation of her in society.
"Those who know her best take the view it is wholly out of character, but those who don't know her will condemn her and she feels constant shame because of that.
"She has not gone out much since the verdict was returned by the jury. She tends to stay at home from what she feels are burning eyes.
"She will have no assets and will be a broken woman . . . it is serious and condign punishment.
The couple now face losing their four-bed detached home in Chichester Close, Hartlepool, as police try to recoup the money they cruelly took.
The court heard how the OAP was going to leave the bulk of her wealth to the couple - but greed took over and they stole it before she died.
At the time of the thefts, they were facing crippling debts of more than £60,000 and had just missed a mortgage payment on their home.
Judge Simon Bourne-Arton, QC, told them: "What the jury concluded you did was to strip all the money your godmother had. You did so for your own selfish needs.
"You claimed in interview and in evidence that you loved her, that you cared for her, that you effectively nurtured her and would not do anything to harm her. You did none of that.
"Indeed, it is noteworthy that once the money had been taken, your visits to her were less. Your excuse for that was that you fell out with the nursing home.
"There was absolutely no reason whatsoever for falling out with the nursing home because they did everything for her and that was just an excuse."
Mother-of-two Reeve was convicted of three of the four joint theft charges, while her husband was found guilty of two and cleared of two.
A council spokesman said after the case: “Hartlepool Council is committed to protecting vulnerable people in the local community and this includes the identification of financial and property abuse.
"We have worked closely with the Police and the care service provider to achieve a successful prosecution.
"This case serves as a reminder that financial abuse of vulnerable people will not be tolerated in Hartlepool and we will take all necessary steps to hold people to account.”