A WIDOWER spoke last night of the "awful betrayal" after his wife had her bank cards stolen by a gambling-addict nurse as she lay in her deathbed.
Retired local authority worker Peter Jones said Rubilita Coggin took advantage of the lack of security cameras on the isolation ward to strike.
Mr Jones, 86, from nearby Blackhall, County Durham, spoke emotionally about discovering £5,000 missing from his wife's accounts after her death.
He said he believed the 87-year-old would be coming home in the days before her death, but she died from heart failure after a sudden relapse.
"The only mercy is that Connie died before she knew about this awful betrayal of her trust by that nurse," he said.
"She was a nice, kind, trusting lady and I'm not sure she would have believed anyone would be capable of such a thing.
"We had been married for 60 years and even now I haven't come to terms with losing her, although she had been ill between just after Christmas and April she wanted to come home and I really believed she would.
"I'd have been so happy to look after her where she wanted to be - in her own house.
"So when she died so suddenly I was in shock as well as grief. And it was while all that was happening that the nurse was helping herself to Connie's money.
"I brought her belongings home and put her handbag down in the corner of the living room and it stayed there for weeks. I could never have imagined that someone had taken her purse and her cards.
"It was about a month later when her statements arrived that I realised something was wrong. Instead of the normal two pages there were ten or 12 pages with dozens and dozens of transactions on them.
"Many of them were to a Mr Green's casino in Malta and it eventually dawned on me that someone was stealing from us so that they could gamble.
"Most of the amounts were kept below £100, which I found out later was to avoid alerting the security measures set up by the credit card companies.
"I asked a cousin of mine who runs a security firm to take a look and he saw straight away what had been happening and we called in the police. Even then it didn't occur it was one of the nurses - one of the people paid to provide care and help for my wife.
"The nurse in question wasn't familiar to me, I don't remember seeing her before but she had access to the locker where Connie's belongings were and she took her purse. She used a Lloyds card and then a Laura Ashley card to run up an awful lot of transactions.
"She knew what she was doing because there are no cameras on the isolation ward and she'd have been able to take the cards undetected. After that it was easy for her once she had the credit cards.
"All she needed was the card number and the security strip on the back. People need to be so careful about their credit cards because all the information a thief needs is on there, PIN numbers aren't needed.
"Because I was in so much distress at losing Connie the last thing I thought I needed to do was check that her cards were safe in her purse.
"Gambling is a problem for people and it draws people in. Her barrister said she had an addiction and that is probably the case, these things do happen to people but it doesn't excuse what she did.
"Losing my wife is the hardest thing I've gone through in all my years and this has made it all so much worse."